Fire officials: weekend fire illustrates ongoing fire danger

HELENA- Fire season 2017 is alive and well in the Helena valley.

More than 40 firefighters responded to a blaze sparked by a power line downed by a tree branch Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Spokane Creek and Mitchell Gulch Roads.

The fire burned five acres of cottonwood trees and dry grass with winds topping 46-miles an hour.

Tri-Lakes Volunteer Fire Chief Bob Drake says while the west wind kept the fire from moving in that direction, embers and brands from the fire were flying east, across Spokane Creek Road to fields on the other side of the roadway.

Chief Drake says another hazard was the cottonwood trees themselves. Large and heavy, the trees are hollow inside, which causes them to act like a chimney, pumping embers 60 or 70 feet in the air and posing a deadly risk to firefighters if their branches should fall.

He credits a strong mutual aid response from local departments, the county, state and federal firefighters for keeping the fire knocked down to the one side of the road.

Chief Drake urges the public to continue to keep a sharp eye out when it comes to fire.

“And if you smell smoke around your house, get outside and look and see what’s going on and don’t wait for someone to evacuate you,” says Drake. “Get out of there and get out of the way of the fire. We got lucky yesterday. I mean we were lucky that everything worked the way that it did.”

Drake says until we get snow on the ground, we’re still going to see fires.

Drake says until the snow falls, everyone should use extreme caution when it comes to anything that can light a spark.