ELMO - The Elmo Fire exploded Monday afternoon as heavy winds started pushing the fire east, forcing some residents to immediately evacuate their homes.
“We got up and checked this morning and it was still up on the hillside, and it has run pretty significantly in the last few hours,” said Dayton resident Jeremy Gibbs who lives on Black Lake Road.
- PHOTO GALLERY: Elmo Fire
Changing winds and fast-moving fire forced his family and neighbors to evacuate Monday afternoon.
“I just hope all of our neighbors were able to get out and get all of the very important things out because this is blowing up, it’s turning dire,” Gibbs told MTN News.
Northern Rockies Team #7 Public Information Officer Sara Rouse says conditions changed rapidly Monday afternoon.
“This afternoon we had some winds come out of the west pushing the fire east and northeast from what we saw yesterday, and along with those winds we were unable to have our aircraft up at that time so it just sort of created this perfect culmination for some pretty active fire.”
Rouse says fire crews are attacking the fire’s edge, utilizing aircraft as the number of personnel working on the fire continues to grow, "yesterday evening we had 293 people, again there are more resources rolling in throughout the day so that number will climb up tomorrow morning.”
Gibbs -- who has lived in Dayton since 2017 -- says he’s never seen a wildfire this close to home. “I’ve never seen it burn over here; I’ve been in close proximity to other wildfires that have burned in recent years but never near my residence.”
Mandatory evacuations are in place for Lake Mary Ronan Road, Black Lake Road, and the surrounding areas. The Montana Red Cross has evacuation centers at Somers Middle School and Polson High School.
The fire forced dozens of residents to evacuate Monday, destroyed one structure, and shut down a section of US Highway 93. Additionally, the boat ramp at the Elmo Fishing Access Site remains closed as does Lake Mary Ronan State Park.
Mapping on Tuesday morning showed the Elmo Fire has grown by over 3,200 acres and has now burned over 16,000 acres.