The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced late Saturday afternoon that it has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Alice Creek fire in Lewis and Clark County.
FEMA Acting Regional Administrator Nancy J. Dragani approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant after receiving it Saturday afternoon.
At the time of the request, the fire was threatening 90 businesses and residences in and around Augusta. The fire is also threatening buildings, infrastructure including critical national defense infrastructure, utilities, equipment and the Blackfoot River watershed in the area.
The fire started on July 22 and has burned in excess of 30,000 acres of state and private land. The fire is zero percent contained.
The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire.
Fire Management Assistance Grants are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. FEMA also OK'd a grant for the Rice Ridge Fire in Missoula and Powell counties.
Meanwhile, the Alice Creek fire was within a mile of Highway 200 again but hadn’t forced a road closure as of Saturday afternoon.
The road was temporarily closed on Friday night but reopened at midnight. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said structure trucks are placed along Highway 200 from mile marker 92 to 98 due to increased winds pushing the fire closer to the road.
“We’re watching for spot fires and nothing has occurred yet,” he said. “The wind is blowing but we’re aggressively attacking.”
Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.
Air tankers and super-scoopers were dropping retardant and water to slow the fire’s movement toward Highway 200. Two heavy Chinook helicopters were dropping water above the Elk Creek and Meadows area.
Drivers will be slowed to 35 miles per hour in that zone. Dutton said the 11 mandatory evacuations remain in place. Although the highway remains open, Dutton said the area is technically closed and drivers are prohibited from pulling over.
Crews were fighting low visibility on Saturday, and officials warned they could be strategically pulled back if aircraft couldn’t provide enough guidance. Dutton said the area was without rain on Saturday evening and crews were still expecting wind and the potential of lightning.
A large forest area closure is in effect. This closure includes all roads, trails, and lands north of Highway 200 on the Lincoln Ranger District Boundary.
A temporary shelter is open at Wolf Creek School and residents in need of assistance can call the Red Cross a 1-800-272-6668.