The following is an update from the Lolo National Forest:
US Highway 12 reopened Saturday and the evacuation order was lifted. An Evacuation Warning still remains in effect for the area as conditions could change with the continued dry and warm weather. There is a restricted driving speed on Highway 12 and law enforcement will be patrolling to enforce the safety speed limits and to keep travelers from stopping along the road. Fire crews are working close to the highway in the fire areas and we ask that road users drive with headlights on and observe safety rules.
Structure protection crews cleared around residences accessed off of highway 12 and slowly brought the fire down to the highway in a controlled manner removing pockets of fuel along the roadway. Crews then removed snags that might have become weakened by the fire and were in danger of falling into the roadway or amongst structures in the area. Bringing the fire in a controlled manner down to the north side of the road also reduces the chance of the fire jumping over to the south side of the highway and also helps prevent the fire from continuing moving east toward the more populated Lolo area.
Firefighters have now moved to focus their efforts on the northern edge of the fire that remains uncontrolled. The fire has been moving into National Forest lands on the higher reaches and more inaccessible areas. There are fewer roads and opportunity for direct line building in this area and we are working aircraft with retardant drops to limit the fire growth. Helicopters are using both water and retardant drops to assist firefighters on the ground in some of the areas that are accessible and where their are opportunites for control.
In reality however the fire and the potential threats it represents are far from being over. There is still a free burning north edge that represents 40% of the fires perimeter. This north edge is in difficult terrain with limited access, heavier fules and few safety zones and escape routes. The fire is currently becoming established in the Woodman Creek Basin and in the center of this area and it will take a considerable effort to contain with resources that are in short supply with the increasing fire activity. Once it becomes well established it will pose an immediate threat to the 500 KVA Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) powerline.