(UPDATE at 10 p.m. MDT, August 22, 2013)
As you can see in the map above, the Lolo Creek Complex did not spread much in the 24 hours before it was mapped at 2 a.m. on Thursday, and firefighters reported very little additional movement of the fire during the day. A heat detecting satellite found very little heat on the fire Thursday afternoon, and some of that may have been from a burnout operation conducted by firefighters to check the eastward movement of the fire.
The weather forecast for the fire area includes strong southwest winds on Friday, at 17 mph gusting to 29 mph. The relative humidity will not be extremely low, bottoming out at 28 percent. There will be a 30 to 50 percent chance of thundershowers Friday and Saturday. The nearest weather station we could find was the one at the Fire Lab in Missoula about 11 miles to the northwest, which recorded 11 percent RH at 4:28 p.m. Thursday.
(UPDATE at 9 a.m. MDT, August 21, 2013)
The Lolo Creek Complex has been very active over the last 24 hours, continuing to spread to the north and east. It added about 3,600 acres, bringing the total to 8,600 acres. Late into Tuesday night the fire was still spreading on the north and southeast sides, but not as rapidly as it was moving across the landscape Tuesday afternoon.
As you can see on the map of the Lolo Creek Complex above, the fire spread 2.5 miles to the east during the 24-hour period ending at 2 a.m. Wednesday, making it as far as Chicksman Gulch. It is now within 2 miles of the outskirts of Lolo, and 6 miles from the south edge of Missoula.
Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
(UPDATE at 8:55 a.m. MDT, August 20, 2013)
The Schoolhouse and Westfork 2 fires, which were on opposite sides of Highway 12 eight miles southwest of the outskirts of Missoula, have burned together and are now called the Lolo Creek Complex. As of 11 p.m. Monday night the fire was still five miles west of Lolo.
The Incident Management Team released this information about the fire Tuesday morning:
“The Lolo Creek Complex, consisting of two fires, formerly the Schoolhouse Fire and the West Fork II Fire, is estimated at 5,000 acres. Extreme fire danger and Red Flag conditions hampered initial attack efforts and the fire experienced rapid growth yesterday, driven by winds of 40-50 mph. Firefighters continue to focus on structure protection and will work today to establish a safe anchor point and begin to contain the fire. Firefighters conducted a burnout last night along the Elk Meadows Road to remove unburned fuel along this possible fuel break. The fire is being managed jointly by the Lolo National Forest and the Montana DNRC.
A National, Type 1 Incident Management Team is en route to the fire, and will be briefed on the situation today. Predicted weather over the next several days will continue to challenge firefighters; heavy smoke will impact air operations, and the potential for fire growth is very high.
There are confirmed structure losses, including homes. Additional information should be available later today. There are voluntary evacuations for residents along Bear Creek Road and down to Sleeman Road. There is an evacuation shelter at Christ the King Church, 1400 Gerald Street, in Missoula. Missoula County Disaster & Emergency Services has established a hotline for affected residents with information on shelters, care for large animals, and other information. The number is 258-4636.
No injuries have been reported.”
(Originally published at 8:39 p.m. MDT, August 19, 2013)
The Lolo Creek Complex was formed today after the West Fork 2 fire blew up on the south side of Highway 12, west of Lolo, Montana. The fire is just a few miles from the Schoolhouse Fire on the north side of the Highway. Now the two fires are being managed as a complex. They are on both sides of Highway 12, eight miles southwest of the outskirts of Missoula and five miles west of Lolo. The fires have burned about 3,500 acres.
Highway 12 is closed at the junction of Highway 93 but residents are being allowed into the area. Fire managers and local law enforcement are also coordinating pre-evacuation notices as needed for impacted areas near Bear Creek Road and other areas west of the town of Lolo.
Fry’s Type 2 Incident Management Team that has been managing the Nimrod fire will take over the complex.