THOMPSON FALLS – The Lazier Creek Fire continues to rage as crews work to contain it. Fire officials said the cooler temperatures could give them an opportunity to gain ground on the fire, but scorching temperatures are predicted for later this week.
So far the fire has burned over 1,100 acres and is 20 percent contained.
John Thompson’s Eastern Montana Type II Incident Management Team assumed command of the Rogers Mountain-Lazier Creek 3 fire which consists of five separate fires in the U.S. Highway 2 corridor.
“Our hope is that we can get a handle on a couple of these fires before the weather does change because that hot dry weather is really going to change things quickly. So we’re trying to look at the critical pieces of each fire and try to get those pieces what we would call buttoned in or tucked in so they’re not a problem when the weather does change,” Thompson explained.
Officials said 60 firefighters have set up a spike camp at the Bend Guard Station outside of Thompson Falls and are about 200 yards from the ridge where the Lazier Fire has burned 1,140 acres and is threatening structures.
A trio of helicopters filled buckets Tuesday from the Thompson River and then dumped the water on the blaze. The area was evacuated as resources worked to hold and improve fireline that was completed on the southwest flank of the fire.
Firefighter Jackson Brittner of Missoula said his biggest concern isn’t being on front lines, but wind change.
“If the wind switches in the Valley or something like that it can turn the fire backwards and chase you out of there real quick. We could be sitting right here and the wind could swirl and it could come over the ridge top and run through camp and we’d all have to evacuate and leave all our stuff here,” Brittner said.
The hot and dry weather is expected to return Wednesday with little moisture in sight.
Meanwhile, pre-evacuation notices are still in effect for the Rogers Mountain fire which is burning near Happy’s Inn in Flathead County. The blaze has now torched 69 acres and is 45 percent contained. The notices were given to residents north of U.S. Highway 2 and Loon Lake near Rogers Mountain.
Fire resources are also dedicating efforts to a three smaller fires in northwest Montana.
The Grubb fire has burned 15 acres so far about 15 miles north of Happy’s Inn and is now fully contained. The Northwest Meadow Peak fire has burned 12 acres northeast of Happy’s Inn. The blaze is 75 percent contained. The 2645 Fire, located near the Northwest Meadow Peak Fire, has burned 3.5 acres.
The Thompson River Road is closed at the junction with U.S. Highway 2 south to the 17 mile bridge. The North ACM Road remains open but drivers should watch out for increased traffic in the area.
There are now 135 people assigned to battle the five lightning-sparked fires.
MTN’s Nicole Miller