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Arlee fire evacuees allowed into homes for short time to check property

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jul 29 2013 06:51:38 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 29 2013 10:07:07 PM MDT

The fire is burning in steep terrain about 6 miles from Arlee.

No homes have been burned, but emergency crews aren't taking any chances.

ARLEE, Mont. -

Crews are scrambling to get hold of the Firestone Flats Fire burning near Arlee. It increased by about 350 acres from Sunday to Monday. But crews Monday reported a pretty good day.

Cooler weather was a friend to firefighters on the blaze burning 6 miles east-northeast of Arlee.

It's burning timberland on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal land.

The fire started Saturday.

It's a hard one to fight, and emergency crews are taking no chances.

On Monday morning, evacuated residents waited for an escort to take them home for a few minutes to check on their property.

"I'm going to check on a couple of cats that got left," said evacuee Jane Lindgren.

About 50 structures are threatened by the fire, but none have burned.

The fire's not contained. But cautious crews expect that to change.

"We want to get a better handle on the lines they've established thus far," said public information officer Kristen Baker, "The fire is continuing to push to the north a little bit. But the weather should in fact help that scenario."

The fire  burning in Jocko  Canyon is not easily accessible.

It's steep country, with lots of beetle killed trees and heavy brush.

At the Arlee Pow Wow grounds, supplies stream in. The camp will be set up for as long as necessary.

Public information officers estimate the fire has already cost upwards of $600,000.

Evacuee Max Eden can't put a price tag on some things.

The Heart View Center near Arlee opened its doors to fire refugees. Eden was eating breakfast there, which he called "luxurious."

He said he had a dream the night before about his father and his fiddle.

"I've never had a dream about my dad fiddling before," said the Arlee resident. "and I woke up and realized that I had left his fiddle up at the house and hid it there."

Max went back up to the house with an escort for just a few minutes, to retrieve the treasure of his dreams.

Officials at the fire camp said Arlee firefighters, tribal firefighters and mutual aid stations did a good job getting on the fire early Saturday, made it easier to fight today.

A public information meeting is taking place Monday night at 8 p.m. at Arlee High School.

Fire officials will be there to answer questions about the Firestone Flats Fire.

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Here is Monday's evening update on the Firestone Flats Fire from Information Officer Cindy Super:

Cause: Under Investigation
Detected: July 27, 2013
Location: Approximately 6 miles east northeast of Arlee, MT.
Size: 1,750 acres
Jurisdiction: Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, Lake County

Current Status: A public information meeting was held at the Arlee High School again tonight at 8pm. The fire is at 40% containment. Residents will be allowed to return to their homes around 5pm on Tuesday July 30, conditions permitting.

The fire is listed at 40 percent contained. Containment in the west and south divisions has reduced the threat to structures near the valley floor.

Planned Activities: Continued work on containment lines and burning out on north and east sides of the fire. Continue to hold the fire and reinforce containment lines on south and west division.

Resources: Five helicopters, three Type 1 Hotshot crews, four Type 2 Initial Attack crews, three Type 2 crews, two camp crews, thirteen engine crews, three water tenders, 12 pieces of heavy equipment as well as 65 overhead staff for a total of 365 people.

Closures: Jocko Road, Pistol Creek Road, and North Placid Lake Road are currently closed to the public. The closures will remain in effect for the public, though residents will be allowed to return after 5pm.