Update: Crews make progress on Lolo wildfires


August 23, 2013

LOLO (AP) — Fire crews bolstered a barrier meant to prevent a pair of wildfires from moving east toward houses and heavy timber outside the town of Lolo as light rain and cooler conditions helped efforts to contain the blazes.

The Lolo Creek Complex of fires was 40 percent contained Friday night and burning on more than 15 square miles, fire officials said.

Crews building fire lines with bulldozers and shovels were working to connect the lines to keep the fire from moving closer to Sleeman Gulch and homes to the east outside the southwestern Montana town, fire officials said.

Forecasts of gusting winds up to 50 mph failed to materialize.

"Weather has been our friend today," fire information officer Phil Sammon said.

Evacuation orders remained in place for about 250 homes, and it wasn't clear when it might be safe for residents to return, Sammon said.

Some firefighting teams stood ready in case burning debris from the hillsides rolled too near one of the homes below. Others doused hot spots along U.S. Highway 12, which remained closed to Lolo Pass.

Mop-up teams dug at tree roots and sprayed down smoldering logs.

South of Red Lodge, the Rock Creek Fire near U.S. Highway 212 has seen slow growth over two days but was still threatening an estimated 127 structures, fire officials said.

The fire was 10 percent contained by Friday morning after burning about 1 1/2 square miles.

A series of thunderstorms whipped up the flames in the afternoon. But Forest Service spokesman Jeff Gildehaus said the blaze grew by only 100 to 200 acres and was prevented from spilling over a ridgeline separating it from the West Fork of Rock Creek.

All evacuation orders have been lifted, and traffic was being allowed to pass at 35 mph through the fire zone.

Other large wildfires in the state include the four-fire Miner Paradise Complex south of Livingston, which has burned nearly 18 square miles combined and was 5 percent contained.

About 50 large fires are burning nationwide.


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