Residents scramble to evacuate west of Lolo
Fire officials are busy managing two fires burning outside of Lolo. The West Fork II Fire and Schoolhouse Fire are now called the Lolo Creek Complex.
Officials tell us the fires, burning off Highway 12 south of Missoula, have torn through 3,500 acres.
Fire managers confirm four to eight structures are gone, some of them homes.
NBC Montana talked to Lolo resident Chuck Satterlee who lives in the Bear Creek area – he tells us he saw his pasture catch on fire right as he was evacuating.
“By the time we got there (to his house) the police were like 'you guys have got to get out of here!'” says Satterlee.
With no time to spare, he and his family grabbed their dogs and valuables and left with flames in their rearview mirror.
“The cops were like 'we're out of here,' so they left and the pasture was on fire,” he tells us. “It was just like I could have been a little more prepared with sprinklers on top of the house.”
Satterlee ran his sprinklers through the night and all morning. He's hoping the effort will leave his family a home to return to.
“I flipped the water back on so hopefully the electricity lasts for a while,” Satterlee says.
Lolo resident Gerald Mininger thought he lost two dogs in the fire, only to learn they were saved by his neighbor Lyra Kester.
“I wouldn't have cared about anything but my dogs,” Mininger tells us. “The house can burn, the garage can burn, but not my dogs.”
Mininger tells NBC Montana Kester was so determined to save his dogs she broke down his door.
“I will love her for the rest of my life,” Mininger says chuckling.
Satterlee tells us he may lose his house but he's grateful that he and his family were able to grab their computers and photo albums before they left.
“We're not really too worried about it because the Lord has given us a great place and he takes care of us so we'll be good,” he says. “If it goes we'll be fine -- something better will come along and it's always been that way.”
Satterlee says he has one cat that he couldn't find and he hopes she's OK.
Montana Red Cross has opened a shelter for residents displaced by the fire. The evacuation shelter is available at Christ the King Church at 1400 Gerald Street in Missoula.
There is also an information hotline set up at (406) 258-4636.