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wildfire

Evacuees check in with Missoula County Sheriff's Department Staff in Lolo Wednesday night
Eric Whitney

About 400 homes south and west of the town of Lolo were evacuated late last night, most with no warning, due to the Lolo Peak Fire. These are new evacuations in both the Highway 12 and Highway 93 corridors.

The Lolo Peak Fire plume seen from Florence The Lolo Peak Fire plume seen from Florence about 8:00 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017.8:00 pm Wednesday night
Eric Whitney

There’s a new evacuation order in the Lolo and Traveler’s Rest area issued by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.

This is an evacuation order, not a warning, that includes portions of the Highway 93 and Highway 12 corridors.

Inciweb

Montana's firefighting fund could run dry by the end of the week, the state's budget director acknowledged Wednesday, forcing officials to draw money from emergency reserves to keep crews and equipment on the front lines of the worst collection of wildfires in the U.S.

This massive Black Hawk chopper is on loan from the Montana National Guard as part of the resource-sharing enabled by a state of fire emergency declared by Governor Steve Bullock last month.
Nicky Ouellet

In the past week alone, firefighters in northwest Montana attacked more than 40 small wildfires, and there’s no end in sight for this summer’s active fire season. But, firefighters are about to get some big help.

"That is the Black Hawk coming in right there," says Wyatt Frampton.

Montana's Firefighting Fund Running On Empty

13 hours ago
Montana is spending over a million dollars a day fighting wildfires. These are Goat Creek and Sliderock fires, July 23, 2017.
Inciweb

Montana's firefighting fund will run dry by the end of the week, forcing state officials to begin drawing money from emergency reserves to keep crews and equipment on the front lines of the country's worst collection of wildland fires.

As of today, more than $168 million of mostly federal money has gone into battling about 80 large fires that have charred more than 400,000 acres statewide.

If you’re wondering what climate change will look like in Montana, state climatologist Kelsey Jencso says take a look outside. 

“This is certainly what the future may look like,” he says.

Inciweb

The size of the mandatory evacuation area along U.S. Highway 12 west of Lolo has been reduced.

At about 2:00 p.m. Missoula County’s Sheriff allowed residents along a 1.7  mile stretch of Highway 12 back into their homes. That stretch is on the east side of the evacuation area, it’s from mile marker 20 to 21.7.

The original evacuation order applied to about 165 residences. Today’s modification reduces that to about 150.

Verde Creek night firing operation on the Sunrise fire.
Alan McGuire-Dale/Inciweb

Montana Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale says many homeowners insurance policies can help out with evacuation expenses.

“If you’re subject to a mandatory civil evacuation order many insurance policies will provide extra living expense coverage for up to two weeks,” he says.

The largest wildfire in the U.S. this year burned in Montana, decimating 423 miles of fertile rangeland, and with it, the livelihoods of many Garfield and Petroleum County ranchers.

Republican State Representative Bill Harris of Winnet was one of them. Harris documented much of the disaster that destroyed his ranchland on his personal Facebook. He’s pointing the finger at a nearby Wilderness Study Area (WSA) managed by the Bureau of Land Management as contributing to overall fire devastation.

Inciweb

Parts of Western Montana were breathing a little easier this morning after weekend thunderstorms brought with them cooler temperatures and increased humidity.

But the storms also prompted the evacuation of about 160 homes on either side of Highway 12 west of Lolo mid-day Sunday.

One of the five helicopters DNRC has stationed around the state to fight wildfires.
Corin Cates-Carney

A few miles north of Lincoln, wildfires are burning more than 9,000 acres along steep slopes full of thick brush and snags.

Matt Conklin is a Forest Service incident commander. He says these fires are among the few that escaped initial attacks to put them out.

Inciweb

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Encouraging news from Lolo Peak Fire spokesman Mark Struble: Now that the cold front has passed through western Montana, the winds have significantly abated, a little bit of rain fell and relative humidity spiked up to about 50-percent for a while.

Verde Creek night firing operation on the Sunrise fire.
Alan McGuire-Dale/Inciweb

8/12   9 p.m.

Trout Creek Road from Magone Ranch (near Pellet Mill) southwest through the fire area is in Stage 3 evacuation, meaning residents need to leave their homes, as of 7 a.m. Saturday. Quartz Creek, Cougar Gulch, and Verde Creek are also in Stage 3 evacuation. 

Malinda Goldhirsch makes the initial attack on a fire near her home that started due to downed powerlines Thursday night.
Libby Goldhirsch

The dry thunderstorm that swept through the Flathead area last night set off dozens of spot fires, left about 5,000 houses without power for hours and previews what’s to come this weekend as a new weather front moves in.

Malinda Goldhirsch lives in Whitefish and got a firsthand taste of the powerful storm while watching TV with her family.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 11, 2017

Aug 11, 2017
National Park Service/Seth King

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has expanded the evacuation warning area associated with Lolo Peak Fire.  The alert reads as follows:

Due to this weekend’s impending Red Flag weather event, the evacuation warning area for Highway 12 near Lolo has been expanded now to include both the north and south sides of the highway from mile post 20 at Bear Creek to Fort Fizzle.

Inciweb

Today's air report courtesy of Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield:

"The Canadian smoke that mixed down yesterday is still with us this morning, causing thick haze and air quality ranging from Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups to Unhealthy across most of Missoula County.

Lincoln County Sheriff Facebook

The smoke pouring into a Seeley Lake from a nearby wildfire has gotten so bad that health officials are warning residents to leave the area, or at least find somewhere else to sleep at night when the smoke is at its worst.

Seeley Lake registered air pollution levels Thursday morning 38 times above what the World Health Organization says is safe. The hazardous air prompted the Missoula City-County Health Department to recommend for the first time ever that an entire community just leave their homes for clearer skies.

Extremely unhealthy air has prompted the health department to recommend that people should leave Seeley Lake, or at least try to sleep somewhere else. This view of the smoke from Seeley Lake was captured on the afternoon of August 10, 2017.
Eric Whitney

Wednesday, Missoula County's health department made the unprecedented recommendation that an entire town, Seeley Lake, evacuate because of pollution from wildfire smoke. Eric Whitney has more on where that recommendation came from, and how it's being received.

Firefighter Brent Witham, who died while on the job in Montana last week, was honored during an August 10 memorial in San Bernardio. This is a screen capture from the live stream of the memorial.
Courtesy CalfireTV

An elite 29-year-old firefighter who died in Montana last week was remembered Thursday for his infectious sense of humor, his love of the outdoors and even the joy he took from a good round of the "Call of Duty" video game series.

But nearly everyone who spoke at Brent Witham’s public memorial service in San Bernardino, California, also mentioned his unrelenting work ethic.

SteveRainsPhoto/Inciweb

Today's update from Missoula Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield:

"The combination of active fires, strong inversions and Canadian smoke means we all woke up to varying degrees of misery this morning.

About 300 people came to the first public meeting about the Gibralter Ridge Fire at Eureka High School last night
Nicky Ouellet

I met Jarrell Miller at the fire information meeting in Eureka Wednesday night.

He was one of the first people to respond to the Gibralter Ridge Fire east of town late Monday night, he says the forest looked a little like winter.

"You would think it was snowing but it was glowing," Miller said, "glowing embers that were flying, and then everywhere those landed- they landed all around - there was potential for thousands or millions of fires, but only a few of them would ignite."

Montana air quality map for August 9, 2017.
Montana DEQ

The Missoula City-County Health Department is now recommending that people in Seeley Lake who are able to do so leave the area until the wildfire smoke event passes.

Recent air monitoring readings show record levels of harmful wildfire smoke in Seeley Lake, the department says, adding that even indoor air is not safe.

A plane flies over the Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake, MT, August 8, 2017.
Inciweb

The Missoula City-County Health Department is now recommending that people in Seeley Lake who are able to do so leave the area until the wildfire smoke event passes.

Recent air monitoring readings show record levels of harmful wildfire smoke in Seeley Lake, the department says, adding that even indoor air is not safe.

Closure Order for areas effected by Gibralter Fire.
Inciweb

About 30 homes near Eureka were evacuated before dawn today after the fast-growing Gibraltar Ridge Fire was discovered east of town. People quickly mobilized to provide a shelter at the Church of God.

Lora Ercanbrack is with the American Red Cross relief team in Lincoln County. She arrived to the church shelter early Tuesday morning around 6 a.m. to greet weary evacuees, some of whom had already been up for several hours. 

Andy Lyon/Inciweb

A fast-growing fire discovered last night southeast of Eureka has prompted new evacuations in that area, and at least one injury on that fire.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is estimating that the Gibraltar Ridge fire is about 1,400 acres in size now. They evacuated about 30 residences in the wee hours of this morning, and an estimated 100 more homes are on evacuation standby.

Inciweb

Missoula City-County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield brings us another of her excellent daily reports:

"Good morning, We're seeing smoke impacts in communities near active fires this morning. While most of Missoula County has generally Moderate air quality this morning, thicker smoke is trapped in the Arlee, Lolo and Seeley Lake valleys.

Smoke plume over the incident command post for the Meyers Fire, August 2, 2017.
Inciweb

For the first time this year, the Montana National Guard has been activated to fight a fire in Montana.

A Chinook helicopter and its team of 15 were deployed  to combat the Meyers fire, 25 miles south of Philipsburg in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. 

Scooper working the Liberty Fire
Inciweb

Managers of the Sunrise fire east of Superior this morning were worried about it throwing spot fires over Interstate 90 and the Clark Fork River.

According to fire team spokesperson Kimberly Nelson, “If there was spotting, the crews caught it because a report never made it back to us, which tells us that it must have been real minor spotting if there was spotting.”

Kate Gemar brought flowers to honor the Brent Witham, the California fireighter who died in western Montana last week. Firefighters from across the country this morning escorted Witham’s body from the Garden City Funeral Home to the Missoula airport.
Edward O'Brien

The body of a 29-year-old California firefighter who died in western Montana last week is now back home in California.

Twenty-nine year-old Hotshot Brent Witham of Mentone, California died August 2 after he was hit by a falling tree while fighting the Lolo Peak Fire.

Firefighters from across the country this morning escorted Witham’s body from the Garden City Funeral Home to the Missoula airport.

Inciweb

Updated 6 p.m.

The Lolo Peak Fire, southwest of Lolo has now scorched 7,084 acres.

Aerial resources, including retardant, are being used to slow the progression of the Lolo Peak Fire into Dick Creek and the South Fork of Lolo Drainage while completing containment lines to the west and north of the fire. Slowing the progression of the fire allows us to be prepared for fire movement in the future that could threaten structures along the Highway 12 corridor.

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