Update – Lolo Creek Fire Complex Grows to 8,000 Acres- Five Homes Destroyed [AUDIO]
UPDATE - Wednesday, August 21 7:00 a.m.
Here is Peter Christian's on-air live update with Lolo Creek Complex Fire Information Officer Cindy Super.
UPDATE - Wednesday, August 21 3:30 a.m.
Shortly after 6:30pm the Lolo Creek Complex grew to the east and north and is estimated at over 8,000 acres. Fire has moved about two miles east along the north side of Highway 12 to just near the Mill Creek intersection. Fire is also moving into the top of Westerman Creek towards Sleeman Creek, onto the ridge near Woodman Saddle. The fire made a rather spectacular run but the wind has died down and the fire spread has slowed. Flames from this run are visible from Missoula but the fire is not on Blue Mountain. Firefighters are moving into areas where they can keep an eye on the fire. There have not been any new structures lost; several structures along Highway 12 were saved by direct action by firefighters.
A night shift has taken over and the plan is to hold the fire north of Highway 12, continue structure protection, and monitor the fire on the north side.
Sleeman creek and Mill creek are currently under an evacuation notice.
Highway 12 is closed until further notice. Five homes have been confirmed destroyed by the Lolo Creek Complex. Several outbuildings have been destroyed as well. As of today there have been no injuries to the public or firefighters.
UPDATE - Tuesday, August 20 7:30 p.m.
Sleeman creek is currently under an evacuation notice. The fire is moving towards Highway 12 just west of Mill Creek. Highway 12 is shut down until further notice. There will not be escorted traffic as previously reported until fire behavior is calm enough to allow it.
Governor Steve Bullock has declared the Lolo Creek Fire complex a disaster, thus making more resources available to fight the aggressive fires that started on Sunday and blew up to over 5,000 acres on Monday.
Fire Information Officer with the DNRC Cindy Super said she was grateful for the emergency declaration, but plans to implement the extra resources must be carefully thought out.
"Its nice to have the resources that come with an emergency declaration, but you still have to have a plan as to what you're going to do with those resources," Super said. "You can't just throw people out in front of a fire and expect them to be able to put it out right away. It will take some time to determine what resources are available, and how to best use them."
Super said one of the results of the fires is that the town of Powell, Idaho is without power.
"They have no power in Powell, so they're trying to get that fixed," Super said. "We're all holding our breath to see what the fire will do today, and what we'll see when the inversion lifts later this afternoon. People don't see a big plume of smoke and assume the fire is under control, however, the fires are still burning very actively."
The fire still stands at about 5,000 acres, or nearly eight square miles. Highway 12 from Lolo to the Idaho state line is still closed.
DNRC Fire Information Officer Cindy Super
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office reports that Robert "Mark" Hannah, 60, was found safe by Forest Service employees at the top of Lolo Pass on Tuesday afternoon. Public Information Officer Paige Pavalone said Hannah was found in good condition after becoming separated from a friend near the east fork of Lolo Creek on Monday. a
UPDATE - Here is the conversation Peter Christian had with Fire Information Officer Cindy Super at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Peter Christian and Cindy Super
The fires that have come to be known as the Schoolhouse and West Fork 2 have been renamed as the Lolo Creek Complex, as the two fires have for all intents and purposes merged, according to DNRC Fire Information Officer Cindy Super. She added Monday evening that between four and eight structures have been lost, and some may have been homes, although she did not know the exact locations of the structures.
"On the Inciweb website, I'll go ahead and make one post for the Lolo Creek Complex," Super said on Monday evening. "The fire is on both sides of the highway. It crossed early this afternoon about 30 miles from Lolo. Our best guess between the two fires is that the size has reached over 2,000 acres."
Fire officials have closed Highway 12 from Lolo all the way to the Idaho border, due to the fact that the fire is burning so close to both sides of the road.The Inciweb site states the fires was at 3,500 acres as of 8:00 p.m. on Monday.
Lolo School is one of the designated evacuation areas where residents who live on the Highway 12 corridor can go because of the fire, however, the official Red Cross evacuation center is in Missoula at Christ the King church, according to Red Cross Action Team member Margie Lubinski.
"A shelter has been set up at Christ The King Church at the corner of Keith and Gerald Avenues in Missoula," Lubinski said. "We've got cots and blankets ready for people. It's been reported that Lolo School is available as a shelter, but they don't have any power [as of 4:30 p.m.]. The Red Cross option is Christ The King. The Red Cross trailer will be out in front of the church this evening."
Lines of cars and trucks were backed up as Missoula County Sheriff's deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers allowed residents of the area to go to their homes to retrieve medications, pets and livestock and then to evacuate the area.
Super commented that the fire had quieted down since the early afternoon when high winds fanned the blaze from a few acres to over 2,000. She said that because of the high demand for expert fire crews, the Lolo Creek Complex was late in getting help, however, she assured those standing by that the help was indeed on the way.
The Missoula County Sheriff's Department Facebook page is providing updates from those working around the fire complex.
Missoula Emergency Services has opened their fire information line at 258-INFO (258-4636), featuring the voice of director Chris Lounsbury. He provides information about evacuations and where shelter can be found for both people and animals.
Director of Missoula Emergency Services Chris Lounsbury
Sergeant Tony Rio with the Missoula County Sheriff's Department pulled the overnight shift Monday night into Tuesday morning, and said the Lolo Creek Fire Complex is reminding him of another devastating fire that struck the Missoula area almost exactly a decade ago, the Black Mountain Fire.
Sergeant Tony Rio