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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 3, 2016

The Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on August 1, 2016
The Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on August 1, 2016

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Last update: 10:20 p.m. 08/03/16

There is a public meeting tomorrow (Thur 8/4) for the Roaring Lion Fire at 7 p.m. at The Assembly Of God Church located at 6th and Main Streets in Hamilton.

Ravalli County Undersheriff Steve Holton reported that as of 5 p.m. today, there have been no changes in the evacuation areas due to the Roaring Lion Fire. Holton said that due to the tremendous work of fire crews, he was very pleased to report there were no additional homes damaged, and most importantly no one was injured during the aggressive fire behavior of yesterday evening.

Holton said that to provide for public and responder safety, and to provide security for the evacuated area, roadblocks are not allowing anyone into the Stage 2 evacuation zone. There are marked and unmarked law enforcement patrols of the evacuation zones 24 hours a day. Holton said any rumors of thefts or looting in the area are false. The restriction is being evaluated during every operational shift, and allowing residents back into the area as soon as it safe is a priority for the Sheriff's Office.

Holton stated after discussions with the fire management team, the area east of Hwy 93 is still outside the evacuation zone. The highway is a significant defensible line for fire fighting efforts. The east and south zones are being monitored, so residents will be provided ample time should an evacuation become necessary due to fire behavior.

Update: 5:20 p.m. 08/03/16

Firefighters were hoping for a better day on the Roaring Lion Fire southwest of Hamilton, after strong winds yesterday caused it to nearly double in size to an estimated 7,100 acres as of this morning.

Fire Spokesman Mike Cole:

"I think we’ll see some pretty good progress on the northeast and east and southeast side of the fire today, in the vicinity of where those homes are at. And that’s where we’re concentrating on trying to get a handle on the fire, where it’s closest to the residences."

The size of the team fighting the fire also doubled yesterday, to 524 people. Nine helicopters and multiple fixed wing aircraft are also assigned to the fire.

Public safety officials are urging people in the area to stay alert for changing conditions and evacuation warnings and notices.

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office has not updated evacuation information since Tuesday evening. More than 600 homes are currently evacuated, and more than 200 are in pre-evacuation status.

The Roaring Lion Fire remains zero percent contained.

Update: 3:20 p.m. 08/03/16

There will be a public meeting about the Roaring Lion fire Thursday, 08/04 at 7:00 p.m. in Hamilton. The meeting will be at the Hamilton Assembly of God Church on Main Street. Members of the Incident Management team and local public safety officials will give an overview of the fire scene and answer questions.

Last night, the weather conditions on the Roaring Lion Fire were perfect for a blow-up. Gusts of up to 50 mph fueled the fire in heavy timber including bug-killed and stressed trees.

"It was the perfect pile of trees up there to go all go at once. That's what caused it to really blow on the south side," says Fire Information Officer Mike Cole.

Firefighters hope to take advantage of today's friendlier weather. The wind is expected to slow by this afternoon, and temperatures today are about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday.

"We’re still a long ways from being out of the woods. We need to get this thing buttoned up in case we have more wind in the next week," Cole says.

Calmer weather is allowing air resources to do more work today. Nine helicopters and 2 single engine air tankers are currently working the fire. A total of 524 personnel are assigned, with more crews coming throughout the day. They continue to focus on the eastern flanks of the fire where most of the threatened structures are.

Updated: 10:02 a.m. 08/03/16

As of this morning, the Roaring Lion Fire outside of Hamilton has taken 14 homes and forced the evacuation of 850 residences. There are currently 201 personnel fighting the now 7,130 acre fire, up from 4,392 acre reported last night. There is 0 percent containment.

According to officials, last night saw the fire's south perimeter burn actively through the Ward Creek drainage near Camas Creek. Other sides of the fire burned more slowly.

Today, crews will be reinforcing existing lines and mopping up near structures. Temperatures are expected to be colder with higher humidity and 15-20 mph winds.

Highway 93 is now open, though drivers are advised to go slowly and use caution. Residents are encouraged to stay tuned for changing evacuation orders.

The smoke inversion is creating difficult conditions for helicopters and retardant planes to use aerial suppression techniques. Furthermore, drones and other unmanned aircrafts are strictly prohibited, as they prevent aerial crews from being able to fly and combat the fire.

Last update 5:30 p.m. 08/03/16

The Copper King Fire burning eight miles east of Thompson Falls is now estimated at 900 acres, up from yesterday’s 800.

There are 275 people working that fire. Today, crews are concerned about strong gusty winds.

The fire team planned to use aircraft to check the fire’s growth, and monitor threats to private property along Highway 200 and the Thompson River.

There is no immediate threat to structures or property, and no evacuation orders have been issued.

Update 3:30 p.m. 08/03/16

The Copper King Fire is burning at 900 acres as of 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. There was strong fire activity yesterday moving into the Buckeye Drainage, and high winds have meant growth along the southeastern edge.

But today, the overcast weather, cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity are predicted to help firefighters gain some ground.

As the cold front moves through this evening, temperatures are expected to rise again tomorrow and the hotter and drier weather means more fire activity is likely.

A public meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

Update: 11:00 a.m.

The Copper King Fire eight miles east of Thompson Falls has grown to 900 acres as of this morning, up from 700 yesterday morning, and is still 0 percent contained.

There are 275 people working on the fire, the cause of which is unknown, including hotshot crews and helicopters.

Today, crews are concerned about strong gusty winds. Personnel plan to use aerial methods to check the growth potential of the fire and monitor threats to private property along Highway 200 and the Thompson River. Although no residences have been damaged so far, there are a variety of road closures. See below.

Forest Road No. 56 on the west side of Thompson River is still open but Road No. 9991 (ACM Road) on the east side of Thompson River has been closed, from the junction with No. 56 to the 17-mile marker. Road No. 5587 (Spring Creek) is also closed, as are forest trails No. 345 (Todd Creek), No. 368 (Big Hole Lookout), No. 370 (Spring Creek), No. 372 (Munson Creek), No. 445 (Kookoosint) and No.1268 (Bay State). The Copper King and Clark Memorial campgrounds are closed. Please limit travel in the area.

The North Tullock Fire outside of Hardin has reached 2,600 acres with 20 percent containment. There are 175 personnel combating the brush fire started by lightning on July 31.

Fire behavior today is expected to be critical with a Red Flag Warning in place until tonight.

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