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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Officials Explain Essex Evacuation Decision At Community Meeting

A view of the Sheep Fire on the afternoon of Thursday August, 27.
Courtesy Gregg DeNitto/Inciweb
A view of the Sheep Fire on the afternoon of Thursday August, 27.

Fire officials, evacuees and members of the community gathered in the gym of West Glacier Elementary School last night hours after the town of Essex evacuated.

More than 50 people filled the small gym as crew members on the Thompson Divide Complex explained how the Sheep Fire's recent movement made evacuation the right call.

Incident Commander Mike Goicoechea said the recommendation to evacuate was given with the fire still a little ways off from the town.

"The bigger it gets the harder it gets to predict what its going to do. And when it stands up in that column it’s really challenging. And the last thing we want is for all of you to get out of there at a moments notice and just have some chaos occur with that. So that’s why we played it safe and made the recommendation and Sheriff Curry followed through with it."

Thursday the Sheep Fire moved to within a quarter, to a half mile of Essex, and within 120 yards from the BNSF railroad track between the Tank Creek and McDonald Creek.

At last estimate the fire is burning 1,300 acres.

Strong winds are expected to increase fire activity today and tomorrow.

Highway 2 is closed in the area, and trains are not running.

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