Memorable Fires Around Missoula- Our Top 5
Fires burn every year around West Central Montana. In the past 35 years there have been several right here around the Missoula Valley. Here’s a review of 5 of the most memorable;
Two large wildfires have burned within the Pattee Canyon area in the last 35 years-one a 1,200-acre fire on the northwest edge in 1977, and another 2,000-acre fire, which started at the base of Mt Sentinel that burned up and over the mountain in 1985. The 1977 fire was the first real awakening in Missoula to fire danger in what is now called the urban-forest interface.
Mount Sentinel….Two boys playing with a cigarette lighter were apparently to blame for a wildfire which started around 7 p.m. July 10th at the base of Sentinel, behind the University of Montana's married student housing complex. The blaze burned 450 acres.
In 2003 lightning sparked a small blaze on the north side of Black Mountain's O'Brien Creek. But then, on Saturday, Aug. 16, winds unexpectedly kicked the Black Mountain Fire into high gear. In one afternoon, the fire grew from 1,450 acres to 7,316, spreading to nearby Blue Mountain. The flames, some 300 feet tall, menaced more than 650 homes.
The Black Cat Fire got started August 14th from a lightning strike. It was the fastest moving fire of all we’ve witnessed. It was driven by gusty winds through heavy grass and threatened many homes in the Hawthorne Springs area NE of Frenchtown. Black Cat burned almost 12,000 acres and wasn’t officially contained until August 31st.
The West Riverside area burned in 1985 and again this year. The cause of the 1985 fire was believed to have been fireworks, the cause of the second blaze is still under investigation. The latest fire burned over 3800 acres and the total cost for fighting it was $5.5 million.