UPDATE – Highway 12 Open – Evacuations Downgraded for Some on Lolo Peak Fire, Sheriff’s Deputies Clocking Lots of Overtime
UPDATE - 1:00 P.M. Tuesday, August 22.
Highway 12 has been reopened, with a speed limit of 45 mph. The Missoula County Sheriff's Office asks that you watch for fire related traffic and wildfire smoke. Please drive safely.
There was some good news late Monday evening when some residents near the Lolo Peak fire were told that the evacuation order had been eased. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Brenda Bassett explains.
"Residents in the Folsom, Highland Roads area and Balsam Route area were downgraded to evacuation warnings that also went for residents north of West Carlton Creek road and east of the the county maintained road signs," Bassett said. "Those folks were downgraded to an evacuation warning which means that they can return to their homes, with the knowledge that the may be called to evacuate again with short notice."
Evacuations have directly affected members of the Missoula County Sheriff’s office where even the Undersheriff has received a notice. Bassett says the 53 sworn officers have been clocking in a lot of overtime all summer.
"We had been assisting with Granite County fire and that was kind of when the overtime list went out and people started being able to sign up for it, and even then we were having trouble to try to fill the numbers," Bassett said. "Then, the fires came to Missoula County and we've had a lot of people digging real deep, not getting a lot of sleep and working through the night."
Since last Friday, the National Guard has come to help maintain security checkpoints near the Lolo Peak Fire and give deputies a much needed break. Bassett says the security checkpoints are needed to make sure people don’t try to take advantage of homes that are empty because of the evacuations.