Wildfire near Missoula brought under control - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Wildfire near Missoula brought under control

The blaze is burning near the Kelly Island Fishing Access site. (MTN News photo) The blaze is burning near the Kelly Island Fishing Access site. (MTN News photo)
(MTN News photo) (MTN News photo)
(MTN News photo) (MTN News photo)

A blaze took off Saturday on Kelly Island as winds spread a lightning sparked fire on Friday night. The fire grew to close to 20 acres before firefighters got it under control.

Jordan Koppen with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said the fire was caused by lightning that was a part of the storm cell late Friday night.

"Once we got the ignitions from the lightning were starting to see a lot of fire behavior ramp up. So we're starting to see these grasses and these fine fuels ignite and burn pretty hot," Koppen said.

Multiple crews responded to the scene. The Missoula Rural Fire District and the DNRC were first on the scene. A state and one Chinook helicopter were then called in water to help combat the flames.

Missoula County Search and Rescue teams helped to transport firefighters and supplies.

"The wind that came up is making this just a little bit challenging with the fire," Koppen said. "And we're just urging the public out there to be extremely careful and cautious with any kind of ignition sources."

DNRC officials cleared the scene on Saturday evening. A crew from  Deer Lodge will be working on the area Sunday to finish cleaning up Kelly Island.

Witnesses nearby came up on the scene while floating the river, getting a front row seat to the helicopters dropping water. Despite seeing the smoke, one witness says he and his friends decided to continue.

"So, we go around one bend and we just see all of this smoke and it's just like," Holy cow, that's not good." The smoke wasn't too thick so we could breathe so we were like, "we'll just keep floating," floater Andrew Lakkso. "But it was just a rush."

He said it wasn't the smoke that concerned him, but the storm and lightning they saw rolling in.

- information from Lauren Heiser and Kent Luetzen

(July 15, 2017 report)

Fire crews are battling a wildfire that's broken out near Missoula.

The blaze is burning in the area of the Kelly Island Fishing Access off of Spurgin Road west of Missoula.

Fire officials report the blaze has grown to over 20 acres on Kelly Island.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office reports the blaze was sparked by lightning on Friday and has been pushed by the wind.

Missoula County Search and Rescue is taking firefighters across the Bitterroot River from the Kelly Island Fishing Access Site.

River access from that site is closed at this time, but the beach is not being evacuated.

Officials are asking people who are floating to avoid the area.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for until Sunday evening.

Forecasters caution that hold overs from lightning and new and existing fires will likely spread rapidly on Sunday.

Winds of 10-20 mph will increase to 15-25 mph with gusts 35 mph, higher on ridges, with and behind the cold front Sunday.

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