Aug 24, 2012 9:54 AM by Robin O'Day - KPAX News
BEARMOUTH- It was a close call as wildfire burned dangerously close to some homes about a dozen miles west of Drummond in the Bearmouth community on Thursday.
The blaze has burned between 40 to 60 acres, and while some evacuations remain in place, Robin O'Day reports crews hit the Felan Gulch Fire hard, and got the job done.
Very, very heavy smoke column going up Thursday afternoon, and in 15 minutes the fire just exploded. Bearmouth resident Joe Moran says before he could even get on his four-wheeler down to check on his neighbors, the sound of retardant bombers was deafening.
The blaze has many homes under evacuation orders as it burns in very steep terrain. The lay of the land didn't help, and firefighting efforts were a bit slow going at the beginning, because many crews are in other states like Idaho fighting those fires.
But helicopters, especially the K-MAX, really helped from keeping this fire from destroying homes.
"There's quite a few homes scattered through here in the trees. Some of them are woven into tight places. So far, we've had a couple of lawns burn, but have not seen any significant structure damage," Jonathan Hansen with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation explained.
"The air tankers got on them pretty quick and dumped a lot of retardant on the houses and the helicopters have backed them up. So we've been real fortunate that we haven't lost of damaged any structures," Hansen added.
This isn't the first time residents watched the Bearmouth area go up in flames, as scares from the 2006 Packer Gulch Fire and Bearmouth Fire are still visible. The area is notoriously dry and as a result, it's a prime place for wildfires.
"Real hot, dry country, that if a fire gets started in here, it's hard to stop," Hansen pointed out.
There's a second fire burning near the Felan Gulch Fire. The Elevation Mountain Fire is in the Elk Creek Area of Garnet Mountains, and tripled in size Thursday afternoon because of gusty winds.
That blaze has burned nearly 200 acres, but officials say no homes are immediately threatened by the fire.