The Lolo Peak fire in Montana has burned 13 082 hectares (32 328 acres) of land since a lightning started it on July 15, 2017. As of August 22, the fire is just 14% contained, it burned two homes, claimed one firefighter's life and injured another. There are still 771 structures threatened.
Lolo Peak fire is a long duration wildfire with the potential to reach the corridors of Highway 12 and Highway 93, authorities said. We are entering another critical weather day on Wednesday, August 23, with dry thunderstorms, gusty outflow winds, temperatures near 32 °C (90 °F) and relative humidity in teens.
A cold front on Friday, August 18 sent the fire rampaging south across the front of the Bitterroot Mountains above the Macintosh Manor subdivision, the Missoulian reported. Firefighters had set a burnout on those mountainsides southwest of Lolo on Thursday, hoping to create a buffer with nothing to burn before the main flame front arrived.
"That’s where we had slop-over from the burnout operation on the 17th when two houses got burned," fire spokesman Mike Cole said. "If we’d had just a dozer line and a shaded fuel break there, there was a very high probability we’d have had fire all the way down to Traveler’s Rest."
Effective at 20:00 local time, August 22, all residences along US Hwy 93 South have been reduced to an evacuation WARNING. This opens the remaining homes south of W. Carlton Creek Rd to the County Line Rd. These residents are able to return to their homes, but should be ready for a short notice evacuation should fire activity change.
More evacuation orders were reduced to warnings Monday morning and evening, August 21, allowing more residents back into their homes. Evacuations were downgraded Monday evening to warning status for residents on Balsam Root, Folsom and Highland roads and residents north of W. Carlton Creek road and east of the county maintained road sign. Evacuations and warnings are still in effect, and can change at any time based on fire behavior.
As residents return home, they may see changes that have occurred to their property as a result of firefighting operations, authorities said. "Once home, check your property for evidence of fire, your well/pump, and electric/gas meter and propane tank. Contact 911 if any danger is perceived."
Highway 12 is open with a pilot car. Old Highway 93 is closed to all traffic, except emergency vehicles, from Tie Chute Lane north. Resident passes are available for those people who live between the Old 93 and New 93 highways.
Featured image credit: Weather Nation