Escaped prescribed fire near Helena, MT

Davis fire near Lincoln Montana
The map shows heat detected by satellites at 3:35 p.m. today from the Davis fire — in red southeast of Lincoln. Click to see a larger map.

UPDATE at 10:00 p.m. August 26:

KXLH is reporting that the fire has now burned about 2,800 acres and is threatening almost two dozen homes. Also:

On Thursday evening, fire officials held a town hall meeting to explain the situation. Forest Service Ranger Amber Kamps told the residents that when Forest Service officials began the prescribed burn on Wednesday, the weather was good. She said, “I can not tell you how sorry I am that we have to meet under these conditions. That you are having to go through this. I can’t make it up to you. I can just tell you I am sorry and we will do the best we can from this point forward,” Kamps says.

====================================================

Davis fire near Helena and Lincoln
Davis fire, Aug. 26, 2010. Photo: markholyoak

Yesterday the Helena National Forest in Montana initiated a prescribed fire in the Virginia Creek area 11 miles southeast of Lincoln and 28 miles northwest of Helena. The fire weather forecast for today for western Montana included red flag warnings in three areas with the possibility of dry thunderstorms. Today the high temperature of 97 in Helena set a record that was two degrees higher than the highest ever recorded for this date. That, combined with strong winds and low humidities today contributed to “active burning and some spotting outside the planned fire area”, according to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service.

At 1 p.m. today the Davis fire was officially declared escaped and was designated a wildland fire. Helenair.com reported that the fire was spotting a half mile to a mile ahead. The Associated Press reported that the fire was pushed by 30 to 35 mph winds.

As of 5 p.m. today it had burned about 1,000 acres, structures were threatened, and the Sheriff had ordered evacuations of homes located at the top of Stemple Pass Pass over to Highway 279 (Lincoln Road).

Yesterday at the RAWS station in Lincoln the maximum temperature was 86 degrees, the minimum relative humidity was 13%, and the winds gusted up to 15 mph. Today at the same weather station the high was 91, the RH was 14%, and the maximum wind gust was 25 with an average wind speed of 5-10 in the afternoon.

The USFS said the prescribed fire was within prescription when they ignited it on Wednesday.

The video below is from KXLH.

UPDATE on August 27, 2010