The Lolo Peak fire exploded by nearly 4,000 acres overnight, and several structures have been lost.  The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is assessing the damaged structures this morning and will notify the owners.

Fire information officer Dave Schmitt said fire personnel are performing ground operations in the Macintosh Manor area on the east side of the fire.

“They burned down from the ski hill, came down the fire line they constructed, then worked north along the fire line into the Mormon Creek area,” Schmitt said. “Unfortunately, some of the fire did cross the fire line to the east and got into areas around structures, and they are doing structure assessment right now to identify if any structures were lost.”

Schmitt said the fire grew rapidly overnight into Friday.

“Yesterday it was 15,000-something, and today it’s almost 19,000,” he said. “It was that long finger that extended out a couple of days go, and the burnout that we did added some, most of the growth was on the east side.”

Asked if the fire is close to threatening the town of Florence, Schmitt said the fire is still several miles away.

“It’s quite a ways from Florence,” he said. “It’s still probably three or four miles away, and of course Stevensville is many miles further south.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Highway 12 remains open with pilot cars for access through the fire area.

There was a community meeting on Thursday night and over 500 people attended. More meetings will be held as needed.

About 31,758 gallons of retardant were dropped by heavy air tankers yesterday in addition to helicopter water drops that assisted the firefighters by cooling the fire edge and reducing the rate of spread, allowing them time to strengthen lines

Fire activity was readily apparent from both highways 12 and 93 throughout the afternoon and evening.

Fire officials are asking drivers on Highway 93 not to slow down or stop along the highway to watch the fire or take photos or video, as the fast moving traffic poses a hazard. In addition, there is heavy fire traffic on both Highway 93 and U.S. 12, so please use caution.