Residents fleeing the flames near Eureka got their first chance to hear from the men and women on the front lines of the more than 1,100 acre Gibralter Fire on Wednesday evening.
The lightning sparked blaze in Lincoln County has forced mandatory evacuations already for the Sherman Creek, Griffith Creek, Therriault Pass and Stevens Creek areas while the Grave Creek, Glen Lake, and Sinclair Creek areas south and east of West Road are still under pre-evacuation orders.
The blaze has grown to nearly 1,300 acres and a Type 2 Incident Management Team has taken over at the scene.
The auditorium at the school in Eureka was packed with an estimated 300 people of Wednesday including many of the residents who have been evacuated because of the blaze.
The meeting was held in order to explain what the type two team was going to be doing as Northwest Montana Type Two Team Incident Commander Rick Connell explained.
“They don’t want us to get real aggressive on the steep slopes where it’s dangerous, no safety zones, etc. So right now, we’re focused on down here at the toe of the hill where most of the residents and businesses are and other values at risk. We’re just kind of keeping it in check along the bottom and as we get more resources over the next couple of days we’ll see where this thing goes, also depending on the weather.”
Connell added that this fire is rather unusual as it has been burning downhill rather than uphill and running east to west towards the town.As far as where the fire outlook is headed Connell said he can’t make any guesses but wants the public to know the forecasted weather isn’t showing good signs.
“We’re not ready to say where this thing is going to go but given the weather isn’t changing anytime soon it’s going to be a long hard fight so those are the things we’ll be bringing to the public’s attention.”
The 30 residents who were evacuated will have a chance between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thursday to briefly go back to their home to gather any needed items. Residents will need to sign in with the sheriff deputy at the check point and provide an ID and license plate number. Residents will then need to sign back out with the same deputy before they leave.
A shelter has been set up for evacuees at the Church of God on Second Avenue East in Eureka.
Livestock can be taken to the fairgrounds in Eureka and smaller animals and pets can be taken to the Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter. The Flathead Spay & Neuter in Columbia Falls is also offering to take in cats.
The Eureka Town Hall will be the location for any donation of food for the crews working the fire. A trailer is located at the back of the town hall for donation items.
The Ten Lakes/ Grave Creek recreation area is closed at the junction of Foothills Road and Grave Creek.