The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.
Last update 11:15 a.m. 08/02/16
Roaring Lion Fire
Updated 08/02/16: The east side of Westside Road from Roaring Lion to Westbridge Road and both sides of Wyant Lane and Nighthawk Lane have been added to the Stage 2 evacuation area. See map below for more information.
It’s been a relatively calm day on the 3,500 acre Roaring Lion fire southwest of Hamilton today. Emergency officials are re-grouping and preparing to hand off management of the fire to a federal Type 1 incident command team tonight.
Tod McKay is a spokesman for the Bitterroot National Forest.
"As you can tell outside, we don’t have anywhere near the type of winds that we had yesterday. Yesterday was hotter and clearer and again the fire behavior and conditions yesterday were beyond extreme."
A public information meeting is being held at 7:00 tonight in Hamilton at the First Interstate Center, 100 Old Corvallis Road. McKay says the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office will give updates on the number of homes and other structures lost, and their locations.
"They along with Brad Mohn who’s the Hamilton fire chief, Ravalli County Fire Warden, have been out this afternoon making confirmations on site, and then are working one by one to notify homeowners, to let them know. We want them to find out about it first before we release any information."
It’s been too smoky for firefighting aircraft to fly on the fire today. But McKay says ground crews were able to build some fireline on the east side of the fire. He says they also put out numerous spot fires last night, saving many homes. Tomorrow, however, brings a fire weather warning, with winds of up to 40 miles per hour possible.
Fire officials haven’t determined the cause of the fire, but they’re working on it. Bitterroot National Forest Spokesman Tod McKay says Ravalli County’s Sheriff’s office briefed the fire team on that today.
"They are continuing their investigation. They have several leads and tips that they’re following up on, solid leads and tips. And they are continuing to pursue every lead and tip, and I would just say if people have other information about that, they should contact the Ravalli County Sheriff’s office."
About 500 homes in the area remain evacuated due to the Roaring Lion Fire. An as-yet unknown number of structures have been lost in the fire.
Copper King Fire
The Copper King Fire, detected Sunday 8 miles east of Thompson Falls, grew from 200 to 700 acres overnight. The fire is visible from Highway 200. Its cause remains unknown.
Though several nearby roads and two campgrounds are closed, there are no evacuation orders in place at this time, says Lolo National Forest Fire Prevention Technician John Hamilton.
"We don't have any containment. We're just trying to secure the edges that are closest to the roads and structures, and we'll go from there."
This morning several engines and 33 personnel were assigned to the fire. On Tuesday, a Type 2 Incident Management Team will take over managing the fire. They bring with them a slew of initial attack crews and air support.
"An IMT team is a nice thing to have. It’s like a traveling all-star team kind of deal."
A public meeting about the Copper King Fire will be held tonight at the Thompson Falls Community Center at 7:00 p.m.
Fire danger in the Lolo National Forest is currently high and officials are expecting increased fire behavior Tuesday resulting from strong winds.
South Tamarack Fire
The South Tamarack Fire is a lightning holdover that was discovered 6 miles north of St. Regis Sunday afternoon. Three Hot Shot crews and a type-two initial attack crew were able to hold the fire to 13 acres.
There are road closures in place on a portion of Tamarack Creek Road #284 and on the South Fork Tamarack Road #4228.
The type-two team will remain to continue mop-up operations in the thick lodgepole blowdown.
This will be the last update for this fire unless conditions change significantly.
Blue Lake Fire
The 600 acre Blue Lake Fire southwest of Ennis is now 45 percent contained, with an estimated containment date of August 6, according to fire officials. Firefighters have fully contained a spot fire off the southern perimeter of the fire. Officials also say they've made significant progress mopping up along the eastern edge of the blaze. Air resources are still available to assist as needed.
As of July 27, the road and area closures in place for the Blue Lake Fire have been lifted. Officials ask that the public keep in mind that crews are still conducting operations in and around the Blue Lake Fire, and hazards from the fire may still be present.
Fire Weather Warning Issued For Western Montana
The last thing western Montana firefighters need now is more hot, dry, windy weather. And yet that’s exactly what they’re going to get tomorrow as a cold front moves into western Montana. A red flag warning is posted for the entire region from noon to 9:00 p.m.
National Weather Service meteorologist Genki Kino:
"The temperatures should be climbing into the 90s again ahead of the cold front. We’re expecting some really strong, gusty winds. 25 to 35 mile per hour wind gusts are possible for the valleys. For the mountaintops we’re expecting maybe up to 50 mile per hour wind gusts as well."
Wednesday’s temperatures will cool into the mid 70s, but bounce back to the mid 80s to lower 90s later this week.
"I’ve been looking really far out in the extended [forecast] and I just don’t see a big rain event in the near future right now. It’s looking like it’s going to be a pretty typical August with warm and dry weather."
Fire officials today bumped Missoula’s fire danger up a notch to "very high".