Residents nervously watch progress of the Lolo Creek Complex fire

Aug 20, 2013

Residents of Sleeman Gulch, a few miles east of the Lolo Creek Complex fire off Highway 12, have been placed on pre-evacuation notice - meaning they need to be ready to leave on the spur of the moment. Sleeman road is a one-way-in, one-way-out gravel road.

Sleeman Road residents gather to share updates about the fire with their neighbors
Credit Sally Mauk

Kirk Derby lives near the end of the road, in a house he and his wife just bought a year ago. Last night they left to wait out the fire in town, but returned today to clear more stuff from their house.

"One thing we realized yesterday is what's most important to us... to take out of the house," said Derby. "Computers, photographs."

Rob McDonough has lived on Sleeman road for 20 years.  He's lived through the fires of 2000 and 20003 - but he says this year seems different.

"I think this is a little worse because conditions are drier - and we' ve had a lot of soot and embers coming down around the house - and that's the concern here because everything is so dry."

Rob and Karen McDonough's house near the end of Sleeman road
Credit Sally Mauk

Noted author James Lee Burke is also a longtime resident. He was moving his two Tennesse walking horses out of his place on Sleeman today, just in case. Burke says climate change is making our fire seasons
much worse.

"I'm from Louisiana-average rainfall in the state of Louisiana in 1950 was 90 inches a year," said Burke."Today it's about 30 inches. How does anyone argue with the conclusion that kind of statistic leads us to?"

Author and Sleeman road resident James Lee Burke preparing to evacuate his horses
Credit Sally Mauk

There is a community meeting on the Lolo Creek Complex tonight at 5:30 in the lower gym of the Lolo school. We'll have a live report from there, plus more reaction from residents, tonight during Montana Evening Edition.