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Rattlesnake fire

Rattlesnake fire Sept. 2.

Rattlesnake fire

Fire crews expect to have the Rattlesnake fire fully contained by early this morning.

State fire officials on Monday reported the four-day-old wildfire burning outside Canyon Creek, roughly 30 miles northwest of Helena, was 90 percent contained.

Officials say the once 900-acre blaze has shrunk by more than one-third since Saturday morning, gains they credited in part to the wet weather. The lightning-caused fire started early Thursday evening at the Triple 8 Ranch and grew quickly under shifting wind conditions that pushed the flames through grass and timber along dry, steep-sided gulches.

Aided by aerial infrared scans, firefighters on Sunday discovered a hotspot in an “old livestock holding” just above a cabin. Fire crews, water tenders and a bulldozer continued work to cool off the area on Labor Day.

“Yesterday crews made great progress extinguishing hot spots and mopping up,” Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokeswoman Crystal Beckman wrote in a Monday fire update. “Timbered areas in Rattlesnake Gulch provided for plenty of work as the larger fuels (timber) hold heat longer than grass and brush.”

Six fire engines, one 20-person handcrew and a helicopter have departed since the fire reached its peak.

Firefighters with a pair of state and federal agencies have joined their counterparts from Canyon Creek and Lewis and Clark County to battle the blaze.

Rattlesnake Gulch Road, Canyon Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Sieben Block Management Area all remain closed as a result of the incident.

-- Independent Record

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Copper King fire

Some 500 firefighters remained at work on the Copper King fire eight miles east of Thompson Falls on Monday, despite the cool, damp weather.

“The expected rain did not materialize,” said Monday’s update from the Lolo National Forest, although it noted that intermittent showers were expected Monday. “The fire will creep and smolder with some limited surface fire possible in the heavier fuels.”

Evacuations for cabins along Little Thompson Creek and the Mud Creek area remain in effect, as do pre-evacuation notices for homes along Highway 200 from the mouth of the Thompson River up to and including Buffalo Bill Creek. Pre-evacuations also apply to homes between mile markers 3 and 4 on Little Thompson River.

Fire management was in transition Monday from Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team to a Type 2 team under Commander Roger Staats, who was to assume management at 8 p.m. Monday.

-- Missoulian

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