Flathead County Sheriff Curry has issued an evacuation warning for a small number of residents near Essex.
The warning was issued at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday due to the possibility of the Paola Ridge Fire extending close to or into the small community. Sheriff’s deputies are notifying affected residents directly.
The evacuation warning is based on the recommendation of the Incident Command and fire experts involved with the Paola Ridge Fire.
The specific area affected by the warning is from mile marker 176 to mile marker 179, including Branch Road, Bugling Elk Trail, Dickey Creek Loop, Eagle Haunts Run, and Lazy Moose Trail.
People are advised to avoid this area, and allow the firefighters to operate safely. Highway 2 remains open, but people are advised to reduce speed throughout the area as smoke and emergency vehicles are in the area.
Updates to this information can be found at the Flathead County Office of Emergency Services Facebook page.
According to Inciweb, the Paola Ridge Fire has burned about 371 acres; there have been no reports of injuries at this point.
Resources on the fire: 3 engine crews, 2 heavy equipment task forces & additional support equipment, and a Type 2 fire crew; Ownership/Jurisdiction: Flathead National Forest; Other cooperators: Flathead County Sheriff, Office of Emergency Services, MT Department of Transportation, and BNSF Railroad.
FIRE SUMMARY: The Paola Ridge Fire is burning in the Flathead National Forest. This fire is being managed with modified confine and contain strategy with indirect tactics; firefighter and public safety is a priority. The fire is burning in steep terrain with subalpine forest and brushy avalanche chutes. There are no evacuation warnings in place for this incident. Any warning notices or evacuations will be coordinated through @FlatheadOES.
CURRENT SITUATION: Fire behavior has been moderate with single tree torching; rolling out limited distances followed up by short uphill runs. The fire is now backing down into Paola Creek drainage. Firefighters have begun construction of a shaded fuel break, tying fire line into Dickey Creek Road, working north towards Paola Creek Road.
Reporting by David Sherman for MTN News