Although officials have downsized the estimated acreage of a wildfire burning east of Lincoln Tuesday, the fire has consumed another smaller wildfire and evacuations remain in place for a rural subdivision.
The Horsefly fire was reported early Monday afternoon burning about 15 miles east of Lincoln near Flesher Pass and sending up a large plume of smoke. The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office evacuated the area of Flesher Acres subdivision on the east side of Flesher Pass due to the fire.
Firefighters on the ground, air tankers and helicopters all responded to the fire. The Idaho-based incident management team overseeing Black Diamond and the Nevada Creek fires has taken over Horsefly as well.
Officials estimated the size at 1,500 acres Monday but revised that figure to about 500 acres Tuesday. Mark Harvey with the incident command team says the initial estimate came from aircraft fighting the fire. As the plume obscures the ground and spot fires lay out ahead, it was not until an infrared flight Monday night that officials got a better estimate, he said.
The fire is actively burning in timber, the understory and logging slash, according to the latest update. Officials say it also consumed the smaller Black Diamond fire burning nearby.
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Warm and dry conditions were predicted Tuesday with general winds were from the west with a few gusts to around 20 mph at exposed ridgetops, while lighter terrain driven winds is expected on on slopes and valleys.
An initially limited amount of moisture will work north into the region, bringing a slight chance of thunderstorms Tuesday and Wednesday with greater chance of thunderstorms Thursday and Friday. Cloud cover will also increase as the week progresses, bringing some moderation to temperature and humidity.
Fire crews planned to assess threatened structures and the need for structure protection measures Monday.
Highway 279 has been closed to bicycle traffic between Highway 200 and Stemple Pass. Fire vehicles are using the while working on the Horsefly fire and closure signs will be posted. Stemple Pass road remains open to bicycle traffic from Highway 279 to Lincoln. Bicyclists may continue to travel on Highway 200 between Missoula and Great Falls.