LOLO – Late last week, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office confirmed two homes, along with several structures in the Upper Folsom Road area, burned in the fight to contain the Lolo Peak Fire.
Public Information Officer Mike Cole said fire crews were backburning in the Upper Folsom Road area on Aug. 17 when multiple embers crossed the containment line and gathered too much intensity, catching buildings on fire.
Despite losing two homes and several outbuildings, Cole said the burn out strategy played a major role in protecting dozens of homes.
“If we had not put, essentially, a giant catcher’s mitt of black between the control line and where the fire is coming from, you’d have a whole different scenario of what the Lolo area looks like right now,” Cole said. “I can guarantee every firefighter out there feels bad that anything was lost, because their main goal is that nothing happens to the public property.”
Burnout operations are a common practice in containing large wildland fires, according to Cole. He said these operations are only put in place when conditions are just right.
“We would never sacrifice someone’s property in the expense of trying to do something off the control line,” Cole said. “Fire is risky business, especially when you have a monster fire coming towards your home. When you have 30,000 acres of ground and fire, and this thing is not over yet, there is a lot of risk involved.”
Ronnie Harvie, one of the residents who lost a structure due to the burnout operation, said he lost his barn filled with tools, a snowmobile and bikes. While many are getting back into their home, Harvie along with his neighbors are trying to process the loss.
“How do you go through and make a list of everything you did lose?” Harvie said. “There is stuff that you can’t get to because the roof laying on top of product. You just don’t know where to start.”
MTN’s Kent Luetzen