Growth at Highway 200 Complex fire prompts evacuations - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana


Growth at Highway 200 Complex fire prompts evacuations

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The Sheep Gap fire as seen from River Road West on 9.12.17. (photo credit: Rosalind Springer) The Sheep Gap fire as seen from River Road West on 9.12.17. (photo credit: Rosalind Springer)

PLAINS - Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel said Wednesday that the Sanders County Sheriff's Office conducted evacuations on Swamp Creek Road from Four Corners to the intersection of the East and West fork of Swamp Creek on Tuesday afternoon.

These evacuations are a result of the fires growth in the West fork of Swamp Creek.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 24 homes are under the evacuation order. This area has been closed by the SCSO.

Pre-evacuations were completed from Four Corners to 132 Blackjack Rd. As of Wednesday afternoon, pre-evacuations have been completed from 132 Blackjack Road to where it intersects River Road West.

Members of the Montana Army National Guard are manning road blocks as ordered by the Type II Incident Management Team to help with road closures, pre-evacuations, evacuations and other assistance needs.

Increased activity on the Highway 200 Complex Fires means more residents have to leave their homes on Tuesday.

The evacuations affect residents in the area of the Sheep Gap Fire in Sanders County, which is the largest blaze in the Complex.

Swamp Creek Road, from four-corners to the U.S. Forest Service boundary has been evacuated. Meanwhile, residents along Black Jack and Mountain roads are now under Pre-evacuation warnings.

Affected residents are being contacted individually by law enforcement officials. Fire officials are asking that "when acting on changes to information, do so in a calm, rational, and respectful way". 

(Editor's note: Original information provided by the Lolo National Forest indicated Black Jack Road was under a mandatory evacuation order. That original information was incorrect)

 Fire managers posted the following message on Wednesday morning:

"The rumor that the increased activity on the Sheep Gap fire was caused by a lost burn-out operation is incorrect. As winds increased during the critical fire weather this afternoon, all fires within the Highway 200 Complex experienced increased fire behavior. On the Sheep Gap specifically, the southwest corner of the fire crossed the drainage, hooked around, and started heading to the east. This movement, prompted the Sanders County Sheriff to issue evacuations along Swamp Creek and Pre-evacuation warnings Black Jack road."

Fire officials report that Tuesday afternoon brought increased winds and more fire activity and that all of the fires within the Highway 200 Complex experienced increased fire behavior. In several areas, spot fires that ignited in thick timber and fuels produced large smoke columns.

Despite this increase in fire activity, previous containment lines are still intact and fire lines near structures continue to hold. Fire officials add that as of 6 a.m. no structures had been lost.

A Northern Rockies Type II Incident Management Team will be assuming command of the blazes at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The Highway 200 Complex fire has burned 24,200 acres and there are 308 people assigned to the blaze. 

Sheep Gap – 40% Contained – 13,414 acres: Last night, the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuations for residents along Swamp Creek Road from 4-corners to the Forest Service boundary. Pre-evacuation orders were also extended for the Black Jack and Mountain Roads. Today, firefighters will continue to provide structure protection along the east flank of the fire. They will also patrol for, and suppress, any spot fires that resulted from last night’s increased fire activity.

Deep Creek – 0% Contained - 5,733 acres:  A Pre-evacuation order is still in effect East of the Clark Fork River in the Blue Slide Area. The fire is continuing to back downhill towards Graves Creek as well as working its way across slopes. Firefighters continue to hold the fire at existing mechanical line and hand line.  Hose lay is also being utilized to keep fire severity to a minimum inside fire lines and to suppress spot fires outside the fire lines.   Smoke will be visible as areas within the fire continue to burn.

Cub Creek – 0% Contained- 4,034 acres:  Pre-evacuation orders are in effect for an area west of Highway 200 from White Pine Creek to Cherry Creek.  The south finger of the continues to be minimally active. The north and east sections, however, continue to threaten holding lines and challenge firefighters. Ground crews are being assisted by aerial resources to hold the fire in check and suppress spot fires beyond fire lines.

Reader Fires – 95% Contained - 152 acres (total): The Reader 1 and Reader 2 fires continue to hold at existing fire lines. Mop-up activities continue and resources are being redeployed to the Cub Creek Fire as they become available.

Miller Creek – 0% Contained - 892 acres: The fire made a significant run to the east yesterday. Firefighters continue to monitor and patrol the fire for unwanted fire growth but this fire remains lower on the priority list due to its distance from values at risk. Resources are in the area and will respond to take appropriate suppression actions as needed.

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