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Miller Creek Fire Likely to be Fully Contained by Tuesday Night

Lightning Near Lolo fire September 2013
Photo courtesy of Lara Smith

Update 1 p.m. 9/17- Though the Miller Creek fire is still burning, wet weather and cold temperatures today have helped firefighters make quick work of the blaze.

“Today with the weather coming in, we’ve had some great assistance so containment should be attained by the end of the shift,” said Fire Information Officer Heather Noel. “However, right now, as of 12:00 today, we are 60 percent contained with good progress being made by the firefighters.”

The fire has been held at 161 acres for the past two days. Helicopters have stopped dropping water, leaving the remaining line work to four ground crews, including two type one teams.

Update  6:30 p.m. 9/16– Montana DNRC is reporting that the newly named Miller Creek fire is already 30 percent contained and has shrunk from 200 acres to 161 acres. Crews have begun mopping up the northwest edge with sawyer work while two helicopters attempt to keep down the intensity of the hottest portions of the fire. The helicopters are working the fire with water from the nearby Bitterroot river (see image below).

water dip
Photo courtesy of Montana DNRC

Update 11 a.m. 9/16- The evacuation order for residents on Oral Zumwalt Way and throughout the Upper Trails End Road area has been lifted. Although residents are now permitted to return, non-residents are still being asked to stay out of the area in order to keep access open to firefighting personnel and vehicles.

Original Story 11:p.m. 9/15 Around 60 firefighters and 15 vehicles were busy fighting a fire that started east of Lolo late Sunday night, September 15. Within an hour evacuations were issued for 50 to 60 homes.

The fire began in grass and quickly spread to between 100 and 200  acres by 10:30 p.m., according to Montana DNRC spokeswoman Cindy Super.

By 11 p.m. officials were issuing an evacuation of for the area around Oral Zumwalt Way Oral Zumwalt Way, Trails End Road up to and including Evans Ridge Road. The fire is southeast of Miller Creek Road, east of Lolo and east of the Bitterroot River. Officials are asking non-residents to avoid traveling on Upper and Lower Miller Creek Road

“Part of the problem with this one, is it’s one way in, one way out,” Super said. “It’s important that people don’t clog the roadway. You can’t get a good view of the fire from up here anyway.”

The fire was started by lightning strikes from a late evening storm that blew through the area. Although it is in the rural-urban interface, firefighters appear to be confident that the fire can be quickly contained.

“It’s primarily a grass fire, and although they move fast and look intimidating they also die out quick too,” Super said.

Incident Commander Ron Lubke with Missoula Rural Fire said early Monday morning, September 16, that the fire moved quickly due to strong winds, and grew to between 100 and 200 acres overnight.

Here is an on-air report from Ron Lubke with KGVO Radio’s Peter Christian as of 6:00 a.m.

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View of Fire from across Bitterroot River
View of the fire from across the river. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Glidewell


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