This release was sent out by Public Information Officers: Bob MacGregor and Arlee Staley.
Afternoon thunderstorms that moved through the Flathead River Valley dominated the news both on the fire and in the fire camp. Winds preceding the storms caused the fire to make a run to the northwest, where it advanced as a steady wall of flames and crossed the 2080 Road and pushed toward the 2000 Road, gaining approximately 150 acres in size.
Crews were able to safely disengage from the fire prior to the wind event thanks to accurate weather forecasting and excellent communications. Rainfall of .37 inches followed the winds and put a damper on further fire behavior for the day. Gusts up to 47 miles per hour hit the Incident Command Post near the Perma Bridge and a logistics yurt and numerous personal tents suffered damage.
Herculean efforts by camp crews and overhead personnel limited the extent of the destruction. Prior to the thunderstorms the Helena Hotshots were able to tie off a dozer line to the 1000 road on the east flank of the fire and heavy equipment continued to make progress on a contingency line to the west. The ability of the fire to push north or south is limited by old fire scars.
The injury referenced above was a hyperextended knee suffered by a firefighter who slipped on a rock Tuesday evening; the prognosis is for a full recovery. Incident objectives remain primarily to protect firefighter and public safety and additionally to contain the fire within the Seepay-Magpie Roadless Area.
Today’s weather forecast calls for continued thundershowers throughout the day with a 60% chance of wetting rain. Erratic winds with gusts up to 30 miles per hour may accompany these storms.
Firefighters will be looking to exploit the opportunities presented by the decrease in fire behavior to seek out potential direct fire-line construction while remaining mindful of the increased hazards created by slippery roads and weakened snags. An additional Type 3 (smaller water carrying capacity) helicopter was added to the firefighting arsenal on Wednesday.