Aug 26, 2013 12:33 PM by Daniel Erusha - KPAX News

Challenges still face crews on Lolo Creek Complex fire

LOLO - The Lolo Complex Creek fire has burned 10,892 acres, and while residents living along U.S. Highway 12 were allowed back home over the weekend, the areas of the blaze that remain uncontained are burning in rugged and remote.

Fire officials say it going to be an uphill battle and reporter Daniel Erusha explores some of the challenges that firefighters are facing, and what new efforts are being made to contain the fire.

Fire Information Officer Tom Kempton says the blaze is moving toward the Blue Mountain Lookout Station and the Bonneville Power lines - which provide power to areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Kempton says they have talked to the power company, and are trying to put a plan in place should the fire continue to move closer to the line.

"That is one of our main objectives right now this fire has lots of fuel down in the woodland creek area here lots of fuel and lots of opportunity to grow in these areas," he explained.

A heavy sky crane helicopter arrived Sunday afternoon, to help fight the Lolo Creek fire Complex, with Air Operations Branch Director Dennis Morton saying it was set to arrive earlier, but was held up by other fires.

"We have been waiting four or five days to get this crane in, and as we are building line on the north end of the fire we have needed this crane to reinforce line building with retardant instead of just water," Morton explained.

He says the new helicopter is capable of carrying between 1,500 to 2,000 gallons of flame retardant. That's compared to a regular bucket that carries between 600 and 700 gallons of water.

Kempton says firefighters are going to need the chooper as they continue to fight the uncontained portions of the blaze.

"As a large column of as might come up and get ahead of itself considerable distances as this fire has done in the past it spotted quickly and grew considerably in a short period of time," he told us.

Fire officials report that 600,000 gallons of water and over 200,000 gallons of fire retardant, the equivalent of over 3.2 million 16-ounce bottles of water have been poured onto the blaze.

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