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Fire crews: Residents west of Lolo need to be ready for anything - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Fire crews: Residents west of Lolo need to be ready for anything

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The lightning sparked Lolo Peak fire continues to burn 10 miles southwest of Lolo. (MTN News photo) The lightning sparked Lolo Peak fire continues to burn 10 miles southwest of Lolo. (MTN News photo)
Pre-evacuation notices remain in effect along part of Highway 12 west of Lolo. (MTN News photo) Pre-evacuation notices remain in effect along part of Highway 12 west of Lolo. (MTN News photo)
Inaccessible terrain is hindering the fight against the Lolo Peak fire. (MTN News photo) Inaccessible terrain is hindering the fight against the Lolo Peak fire. (MTN News photo)
LOLO -

Parts of the Highway 12 corridor west of Lolo remain under pre-evacuation notice as the 7,900 Lolo Peak Fire continues to burn.

Firefighters, law enforcement and emergency responders held another public meeting Thursday evening, explaining the current situation to residents impacted by that fire. 

They say the future is still unclear, and that those in the line of fire should be prepared for anything.

Crews have been battling the Lolo Peak Fire for nearly a month, and the blaze shows no signs of slowing down in part due to the rugged terrain where its burning, as well as the types of fuel that are feeding the blaze.

"Very steep, steep, steep, steep country, very inaccessible country,” said Lolo Peak Fire Information Officer Stan Hinatsu.  “It's not very well roaded in some of these places.  And then there's the vegetation type, the what we refer to as the mixed conifer vegetation, where it's very very thick, very very dense trees with a lot of dead and dying wood in it, and heavy ground fuels.  And those are very difficult places to fight fire."

To combat that, crews have prepared indirect containment lines around most of the circumference of the fire along Highway 12 to the north and Highway 93 to the south.

"So we now have those build, they're in place, and we're strategically watching the fire and trying to use our aircraft to check the fire, to prevent rapid growth and manage the growth as the fire comes down out of the steeper country down into the canyons, down towards our line and also down toward the homes," explained Cody Rohrbach, the operations sections chief on the Lolo Peak Fire.

Weather remains a primary concern for crews on the mountain. There are fears over a dry cold front linger resulting in winds that could push the fire through places like Mormon Creek.

"Yeah what the models show us is many of those canyons are almost like fuses, because they line up with the wind,” said Rohrbach.  “And also as you come down in elevation the fuels get drier, and it's going to allow the fire to spread quicker, come down towards town."

Crews warn residents that there could still be a month or more to this year's fire season and to remain prepared for anything.

Pre-evacuation notices remain in effect for residences on the south side of Highway 12 between Fort Fizzle and Elk Meadows Road.  This is not an order to evacuate, only a warning so citizens can prepare should evacuations become necessary

Highway 12 remains open but motorists are asked not to stop along the road to view fire activity as it creates a traffic hazard. 

A FireWise trailer remains set up just south of the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 12 in Lolo. Fire information is also available at Lolo Harvest Foods and Florence Carlton School. A fire information line at (406) 273-5433 is being manned daily from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.

RELATED: Top wildfire preparedness level declared in Montana

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