Lolo Peak Fire Now Over 30,000 Acres – Nearly 1,000 Personnel On The Fire – Cost Now At $20.4 Million
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On Sunday, August 20, Lolo Peak Fire Information Officer Jordan Koppen said the blaze has now consumed over 30,000 acres, and the cost has ballooned to $20.4 million.
“The fire’s about 30,000 acres now, said Koppen just after 8:00 a.m. on Sunday. “Even over the last couple of days you can imagine it has grown quite a bit. The fire should be a lot quieter today because we don’t have that Red Flag Warning that we had the last two days, so firefighters should be able to do a lot of good work today.”
Koppen described the tactics that firefighters have been utilizing to slow the fire’s growth.
“What we had yesterday were a bunch of firing operations to create more black, so the fire can’t have any intensity or steam to get up and go anywhere,” he said. “We had a successful operation on that northeast flank of the fire. It was like a catcher’s mitt, and we caught the fire coming straight out of the Mormon Creek drainage, because that had a lot of potential to get some steam, and that could have threatened the entire town of Lolo.”
Koppen said Highway 12 will reopen at 11 AM today with pilot cars: Until it is opened, East Bound Traffic is being diverted around the fire area to the north on the Grave Creek/petty Creek Road to I-90. West bound traffic is being turned around about three miles west of Lolo, MT.
Old highway 93 is closed to all traffic, except emergency vehicles, from Tie Chute Lane north.
On the other side of the fire, Koppen said the chance that the fire could cross Highway 93 are ‘super-slim’.
“The plan of attack for today is we’re going to do more burning out to rob the fire of fuel to grow. We still have work to do on that northern flank, and with that active fire yesterday especially near Florence, we’ve got a lot of work to do on that east side, too.”
Koppen said someone launched a drone in the Mill Creek area that caused all aerial operations to shut down for a time. He emphasized the danger that even a small drone might pose to a helicopter filled with firefighters.
“A drone could easily take a helicopter or even a plane out of the sky,” he said. “That tail rotor is super sensitive, and just one little piece of equipment into that tail rotor, it could take the chopper down and take firefighters to the ground with it.”
Koppen said he was discouraged to see how few homeowners had created defensible spaces around their homes.
“I went up to Mill Creek yesterday with some reporters, and as I was looking around, I still saw wood piles right up against people’s houses, and then I saw another huge wood pile about 20 feet away from another house,” he said. “It’s just another wake-up call for people to prepare the areas around their home, so that if a fire does come, they can be more at ease.”
The Lolo Peak Fire is now at 30,765 acres with nearly 1,000 personnel assigned to the fire.
According to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, all evacuations remain in place.