MISSOULA — Authorities are seeking the public’s help in identifying a driver of a red Polaris side-by-side as authorities continue to investigate how the Plant Creek fire southeast of Missoula sparked to life earlier this week.
US Forest Service (USFS) law enforcement are looking for information about a black and red side-by-side was driven in the Miller Creek area on Sunday afternoon whose driver may have information regarding the cause of the Plant Creek fire, according to a news release.
The side-by-side was driven by a white, bald, middle-aged male accompanied by two children. One of the children may have been wearing a bright orange sweatshirt.
Anyone with information regarding the driver is asked to contact USFS law enforcement officer Nick Scholz at (406) 329-1025.
“Plant Creek is a popular recreation area close to Missoula,” stated Missoula District Ranger Jen Hensiek. “While the area is open for safe and responsible target shooting, recently it has become littered with shooting targets, shooting debris, and illegal dumping. We are disappointed to learn that illegal behavior could have been the cause of this wildfire that has put Forest and private lands at risk. We are asking for the public’s help with information.”
Although an official cause of the Plant Creek fire has not yet been determined, exploding targets have not been ruled out of the investigation. The USFS notes that exploding targets of any kind are prohibited on all Lolo National Forest Lands.
Fire managers report crews made good progress battling the wildfire which is burning nine miles southeast of Missoula, north of Miller Creek Road in the Plant Creek drainage. The fire is now 50% contained and officials note more accurate mapping shows the fire has burned 33 acres. Some fire growth did occur on Tuesday as the fire burned actively on the western flank consuming brush, grass, and occasionally flaring in brush or trees.
Smoke may be visible from Missoula, US Highway 93, parts of the Bitterroot Valley, and the Miller Creek area. Firefighters are expecting cool and wet conditions toward the end of this week which will help to calm the fire.
Drivers are asked to use caution along Miller Creek Road due to firefighting traffic. Additionally, Plant Creek Road is temporarily closed due to fire traffic.