Firefighters expect a busy wildfire season if western Montana doesn’t get some rain. South of Missoula in Lolo, the dry conditions caused a controlled burn to catch a hillside on fire on Sleeman Creek Road.
A helicopter flew in from Helena to drop water on the fire and create a containment line. It’s estimated to be about ten acres and is burning toward a mountain ridge in rough terrain. There are about 15 to 20 firefighters battling it, but more are on the way.
The homeowners started a controlled burn around 1 p.m. on Sunday, and thought it was out, but a little later noticed a small fire burning up the hillside next to their house.
The fire worked its way up the hillside fast and Missoula Rural fire and Florence fire along with other agencies are on scene. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is also on scene trying to contain the fire.
Missoula Rural Fire Captain Damon Almond says the conditions are right for a fire to get out of hand. Adding, “Just what we’re seeing here, really fast. By the time they turned around and tried to catch it, they couldn’t catch it. So it’s definitely a really dry year, a really dry Spring. We’re not getting the moisture we normally get and when you have that and a little wind and a steep slope like this, it’s going to take off pretty well.”
The Sleeman Creek homeowners did have a permit to burn. Captain Almond says when people are issued burn permits, officials go over safety tips with them to make sure they keep fires contained.
Crews have called for more fire engines to get the fire contained and add it could be days before they get the fire completely out, but no nearby homes or structures are in danger.