Aug 21, 2013 12:59 AM by Mark Thorsell - KPAX News
LOLO - The winds kicked up Tuesday evening west of Lolo pushing the Lolo Creek Complex fire to over 8,000 acres as flames, which could be seen from Missoula, marched east - devouring everything in their path.
Several new evacuations were ordered on Tuesday evening, including for residents in the Mill Creek and Sleeman Creek areas, where residents were told to leave. While no evacuation orders are in place for the Lolo Trails subdivision along U.S. Highway 12, residents were being warned to be ready to move quickly if the order comes down.
Cindy Super with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says that the blaze grew to the east and north at around 6:30 p.m., and is now estimated to have burned over 8,000 acres.
Super explained that the flames moved about two miles east along the north side of U.S. Highway 12 to just near the Mill Creek intersection. The fire is also moving into the top of Westerman Creek towards Sleeman Creek, onto the ridge near Woodman Saddle.
The fire's run slowed once the winds died down later in the evening, and several air tankers and helicopters could be scene circling over Lolo as they made runs at the Lolo Creek Complex fire.
A fire camp is being set up along U.S. Highway 93 in the Lolo Flats, and dozens of fire trucks and U.S. Forest Service trucks were converging on Lolo - with some crews coming from as far away as Meagher County.
Super says no structures were lost on Tuesday and in fact, several along U.S. Highway 12 were saved by direct action by firefighters.
A night shift has taken over, and the plan is to hold the fire north of U.S. Highway 12, continue structure protection, and monitor the fire on the north side, according to Super.
U.S. Highway 12 remains closed from Lolo to Lolo Hot Springs until further notice, and long lines formed at times along U.S. Highway 93 in the center of Lolo as residents who had not been evacuated awaited clearance to head up the road and return home.
While no homes were lost Tuesday, Super has confirmed that five homes have been destroyed, as have several outbuildings.
The Lolo Creek Complex fire came to life on Monday as the West Fork 2 Fire and the Schoolhouse fire merged together by jumping U.S. Highway 12.
The Montana Red Cross has set up a shelter for evacuees at Christ the King Church on Gerald Avenue in Missoula, with additional space available at Lolo School if it's needed.
The Missoula County Fairgrounds is accepting livestock and horses while pets can be taken to Missoula Animal Control on Butler Creek Road.
A fire information trailer has been set up at the Lolo Super Stop, and residents can also call (406) 258.4636 for more information.
(photo courtesy Laurie Frame Wisby)