HELENA — The Helena Fire Department says that although the fire scars at Nob Hill park will be there for a while, damage from the fire was minimal thanks to the efforts of multiple responding agencies.
Fire crews from nine agencies hit the fire quickly after it was reported Saturday afternoon. Mutual aid that assisted Helena Fire included Montana City, East Valley, Baxendale, West Valley, Tri-lakes, the U.S. Forest Service, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and even a strike team from New Jersey that are in-state right now assisting with Montana’s fire season.
Helena Assistant Fire Chief Mike Chambers says that were it not for those additional teams and resources the Nob Hill Fire could have been much worse.
“We’re spoiled here in Helena. We have a lot of resources to pull from and we have a lot of highly qualified people with capable equipment,” Chambers explained. “But the thing about wildland fire vs a structure fire is we can contain a structure fire to the building of origin so to speak. Wildland fire is going to follow the wind and the fuel, which is much larger.”
In total, Helena Fire estimates the fire burned roughly 5 acres at Nob Hill. Around 20 homes were under voluntary evacuations Saturday afternoon, but everyone was back home that night.
The fire is believed to have been started on the northwest side of the park by individuals with bottle rocket fireworks, which are illegal to set off within city limits. Police are in contact with suspects and the investigation is ongoing.
Any fire is a dangerous situation, and crews saw flames shooting several feet high, but were able to knock it down and prevent tree torching. When torching, or a crown fire, occurs flaming limbs can break off a tree and be picked up by the wind, which could have led to spot fires hundreds to thousands of feet away from the initial blaze.
A significant danger for firefighters responding to the Nob Hill Fire was at the communication tower at the top of the hill. Used by county first responders, the facility has a propane tank used by the building in the winter months.
The fire burned all around the building and the propane tank did leak during the fire. However, thanks to efforts from firefighters they were able to put out the blaze, save the facility and the expensive electronics that are in the tower.
Residents in the area told MTN they are so thankful for the crews for not just their response on this fire, but all the fires that have threatened homes and communities in the area.
Helena Fire would like to remind the public that the City of Helena is still under Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, and the area has seen multiple Red Flag Warning days in recent weeks.