Aug 22, 2013 8:42 AM by Dax VanFossen - KPAX News

Lolo Creek Complex now #1 U.S. wildfire priority

LOLO - Wednesday's public meeting about the Lolo Creek Complex was in sharp contrast to Tuesday's gathering, as relatively good news was delivered to residents who pack the lower gym at Lolo School.

Officials gathered and delivered the news that the blaze is now considered to be the top firefighting concern in the entire country.

Residents concerned about their safety and their property were told by several different speakers that Wednesday was a good day, with one speaker even noting for the crowd, that the level of smoke has gone down.

While Lolo is nowhere near being out of the woods, Wednesday's meeting was the first really good piece of news since the Lolo Creek Complex blaze began to rage to life earlier this week.

A Northern Rockies Type I Incident Management Team took over on Wednesday morning, and Incident Commander Greg Poncin had more good news for the assembled crowd.

"Within the National Agency Fire scene, this fire, is ranked as the top priority in the country today, " he explained to applause from the crowd.

But, it wasn't all sunshine and flowers as a pretty heavy low pressure system looks to make its way into the area later in the day on Thursday, and could bring with it wind and lightning - although some rain is also expected.

The best part of the meeting came tonight from Brent Christopherson with the Missoula Rural Fire District who described how firefighters helped to save a man's home.

"Is my house still there? And he took his hands away from his face and we turned around and said ‘it is,' and he went to his knees with his hands to his knees, and he became very emotional - and that's what it's all about."

Christopherson, like all of the other emergency workers, stayed after the meeting to speak personally with the public to assure them that everything that can be done, is now being done to battle the 8,600 acre blaze.

Resources continue to pour into Lolo, with nine helicopters, 30 engines and over 500 people ready to go back at the fire which threatens 2,100 residences on Thursday.

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