It was confirmed on Monday morning that the Lost Mine Loop fire burning in the Upper Miller Creek area was caused by the exhaust from a hot chain saw on private property early Sunday afternoon. 

Department of Natural Resources Public Information Officer Jordan Koppen said a homeowner was cutting logs at the base of a hill, when the fire started and raced up the hillside.

"It was a human-caused fire," Koppen said. "The fire resulted from an overheated muffler on a chainsaw. The man had a bunch of sprinklers out, but he didn't wet down any of the areas where he was using his chainsaw."

Koppen said the fire was originally estimated to be between 50 to 60 acres, however, that estimate proved to be too small.

"It's much bigger than that," he said. "A flight survey will confirm the size, but it could be as large as 100 to 150 acres. We're trying to get line around the fire, and luckily the wind hasn't come up, so we've been very lucky there. We just brought in two hand-crews and they're up working on the fire right now, we have a couple of helicopters on standby to help if anything flares up. We do have a couple of hot spots that we're trying to take care of."

Koppen used the opportunity to talk about fire safety.

There's a good reason why we haven't reopened open burning season," Koppen said. "There might be some morning frost, but when the weather heats up, it dries out all that dead grass and makes it the perfect fuel for a wildfire. We're kind of in between that moderate to high fire danger level. We may be moderate right now, but we still encourage people to be really cautious about any ignition sources."

Crews from Missoula Rural Fire, the DNRC and the U.S. Forest Service are still on the scene of the fire.

Department of Natural Resources Public Information Officer Jordan Koppen