Update: Evacuations ordered near Rock Creek as red flag warning returns to western MontanaSource: Missoulian
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A wind-driven fire in the Brewster Creek area near Rock Creek Road prompted officials Thursday night to issue evacuation notices.
The Goat Creek fire, which was started by lightning is being driven by strong and gusty winds, had expanded to 800 acres. It is located about six miles south of the old Bonita Guard Station near Interstate 90 and about one mile east of Rock Creek Road. The Granite County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation notices for the Brewster Creek area and pre-evacuation notices for the Rock Creek residences between mile markers 5 and 13 on the Rock Creek Road. Tock Creek Road is closed to local traffic only from mile marker 1 to Gillis Bridge.
The Clinton Rural Fire department, Missoula Rural Fire Department, the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service have crews fighting the fire. Helicopters and multiple aircraft also have been called in.
Weather will not help firefighting efforts in the short term.
The National Weather Service is calling for increased fire danger Friday, as a dry cold front passes through the area.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect for western Montana through Friday night, meaning low humidity and gusty winds will create erratic fire behavior and potential new fire starts.
The fire danger is currently “High” on the Bitterroot National Forest, with fires spreading rapidly and quickly increasing in intensity after ignition.
Firefighters there were actively working on numerous blazes Thursday, and the wildfires have prompted some closures.
The Lolo Peak fire covers about 182 acres in the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. The fire is pushing south into the wilderness area, but the northern edge showed minimal growth. Planning efforts are being developed to minimize impacts to local communities and infrastructure. Smoke is expected to remain visible from U.S. Highway 12, the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula.
The Dominic Butte fire in the Sapphire Mountains is located on the Stevensville Ranger District, east of Corvallis in the Sapphire Mountains near Willow Mountain Lookout and Dominic Point.
No structures are threatened, but trail and road closures are in place for Willow Creek Road and Burnt Fork Lake.
The lightning-caused fire was discovered Wednesday around 3 p.m. and quickly grew to 25 acres. A heavy air tanker and two “SEATs” — single engine air tankers — made multiple retardant drops on the fire and helped establish a perimeter that firefighters on the ground are working to reinforce.
Currently, 65 firefighters, five engines and two helicopters are assigned to the blaze, which is being actively suppressed. They’re working on building a fire line around the perimeter and extinguishing hot spots outside the fire’s edge to prevent it from growing.
Crews also are trying to establish a hose line around the north end of the fire, and three helicopters are assisting with bucket drops of water from local lakes.
Additional resources have been ordered, including one 20-person hand crew, bulldozer and water tender. The fire is burning in heavy timber and brush in steep and rugged terrain.