The Missoula County sheriff on Sunday ordered the evacuation of about 160 homes on either side of Highway 12 west of Lolo, from mile marker 20 (Bear Creek) to Fort Fizzle. The evacuation is mandatory.
In addition, another 140 homes were placed on an evacuation warning and residents were told to be ready to leave on very short notice. The warning area includes homes from Fort Fizzle to Balsam Root Road on both sides of Highway 12.
Residents of Mormon Creek Road past Vann Drive and those on Vann Drive also were given an evacuation warning.
Highway 12 from mile marker 20 to mile marker 30 was closed to through traffic because of the fire emergency.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Florence-Carlton Community Church on old U.S. Highway 93. Sheltering for larger animals can be arranged by calling Missoula Animal Control at 541-7387.
Information officers on the 7,903-acre fire gave this accounting of the changing conditions:
“Law enforcement and fire department cooperators on the Lolo Peak Fire have entered Unified Command this (Sunday) morning following significant fire spread overnight and extreme fire weather predicted for today. Wind gusts of 40 miles per hour (or more) are predicted for today.
“Last night, outflow winds from thunderstorms moved across the Lolo Peak fire bringing strong winds which resulted in significant growth on the north edge of fire. After smoke cleared out of the valleys, firefighters were able to get a much better look this morning and determined that there was fire established north of what has been referred to as management action point six. The fire is expected to reach primary containment lines to the north today.”
The Lolo Peak fire was ignited by lightning on July 15 and has burned actively since. Fire managers said the fire received an influx of resources because of Sunday’s heightened danger, including crews and engines from Missoula Rural Fire and volunteer departments in Ravalli County.
In addition, a Type I incident management team will assume responsibility for the fire later this week.
At nightfall, fire information officers said “very active fire behavior” is expected on Monday, with wind-driven fire growth, group tree torching and crown runs that spot one-half mile ahead of the main fire.
There is “potential for multiple active areas at a time,” the fire managers said. “Active burning through the night is likely.”
The Lolo Peak fire did pick up some brief light rain showers for a few hours on Sunday. Monday’s forecast calls for west winds under dry conditions in the afternoon and evening at 10-20 miles per hour.
The fire is 0 percent contained.
“Aircraft, support personnel, and field resources are all engaged in preparing lines, managing growth toward containment lines and preventing fire from high-intensity runs toward Highways 12 and 93 and surrounding communities,” said the late-night update posted by the incident management team on inciweb.com.