State official puts homes destroyed by Lolo fires at four

2013-08-21T00:00:00Z State official puts homes destroyed by Lolo fires at four Montana Standard
August 21, 2013 12:00 am

LOLO (AP) — Fires have burned at least four homes so far in western Montana and high temperatures and increasing winds made the blazes likely to keep spreading, a state fire official said Tuesday.

The two fires west of Lolo had been holding most of the day at nearly 8 square miles burned, but the wind speed started picking up Tuesday afternoon, state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fire spokeswoman Crystal Beckman said. By evening, the Lolo Creek complex of fires had burned an estimated 7,500 acres — roughly 12 square miles — and prompted new evacuations, Montana Public Radio and KECI-TV reported.

The four homes destroyed in the Lolo Creek complex of fires does not include additional structures that also may have burned, but fire officials were not able to verify a total number, Beckman said.

One hotshot crew, five hand crews, a helicopter and 10 engines and other heavy equipment were battling the fires. Officials ordered additional resources and were looking to borrow more where they can.

“The fires in Idaho, California and Washington have put a strain on the resources,” Beckman said.

The Lolo fires may be bumped up in priority when a national Type 1 emergency team takes over management on Wednesday morning, she said.

With soaring temperatures and low humidity, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency for 31 counties across western, northern and southeastern Montana.

The rapidly spreading fires west of Lolo are a game changer that promises to stretch resources thin, Bullock told the Missoulian in a story published Tuesday.

Additional state resources are needed to reinforce the state’s initial attack capabilities, Bullock’s order said, and the declaration allows the use of National Guard resources ranging from personnel to helicopters.

Those resources will likely be needed, as fire officials said the weather forecast did not bode well.

“Predicted weather over the next several days will continue to challenge firefighters,” fire information officer Cindy Super said. “Heavy smoke will impact air operations, and the potential for fire growth is very high.”

Wind gusts of 40 mph to 50 mph pushed the two lightning-caused fires near Lolo.

Voluntary evacuations were recommended for residents from Bear Creek Road to Sleeman Road, Beckman said. It was not immediately clear how many houses are in that area.

By Tuesday night, evacuations had spread to Sleeman Creek Road, Montana Public Radio and KECI-TV reported.

U.S. Highway 12 was closed to all except residents and emergency personnel from Lolo to the Idaho line. Officers were stopping vehicles and checking identifications, allowing residents through to check their property or help neighbors.

No injuries were reported. A shelter was established at Christ the King Church in Missoula.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said a man was found safe after being reported missing while berry picking near Lolo Creek on Monday just before the fire spread to the area.

Mark Hannah, 60, became disoriented and was separated from a friend as the two headed back because of the thickening smoke, sheriff’s spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said.

At least 19 notable fires were burning across the state on Tuesday, according to fire officials.

A new fire forced the closure of a portion of U.S. Highway 212 about 5 miles south of Red Lodge and led to the evacuations of three homes in the Rock Creek area, fire officials said.

The fire was burning about 200 acres along the highway near the Rock Creek Resort. The road, also known as the Beartooth Highway, connects Yellowstone National Park and Red Lodge over the 10,947-foot Beartooth Pass.

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us at editor@mtstandard.com.

If your comment was removed or isn't appearing online, perhaps:

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).
  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.
  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.
  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.
  5. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.
  6. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.
  7. Your comment is in really poor taste.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow the Montana Standard

Subscribe to MTStandard.com emails!

Be in the know! Stay plugged in! Sign up for Montana Standard emails in your inbox!

Montana Videos

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in about t…

Boy baffled by payphone

Boy baffled by payphone

How technology has changed children. Phones now fit in pockets and purses, so this little bo…

Mojave desert oasis

Mojave desert oasis

Jeff the Nature Guy visits the Mojave Desert, and finds a surprising amount of life in the h…

Clipped from the Newspaper

Great Butte Businesses

Extras from the paper