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Evacuations partially lifted for West Mullan Fire

By Will Wadley, KECI Weekend Anchor, wwadley@keci.com
Published On: Jul 19 2013 07:20:20 AM MDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2013 09:19:09 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

According to Greg DeNitto, the Fire Information Officer, "West Mullan Road is open to the public east of Sunflower Lane.  West of Sunflower Lane it is open to residents only.  Flat Creek Road within the city limits is open.  East Mullan Road is open to everyone.  Flat Creek Road outside the city limit remains closed and under mandatory evacuation.  Pardee Creek, Keystone Creek, and LaVista Roads remain closed and under mandatory evacuation. Big Eddy Fishing Access is closed."

Smoke and flame-ups are no longer visible from downtown Superior. The west end of the fire is where the action is now. There are ground crews working the fire line and helicopters making water drops above.

Crews battling the West Mullan Fire have made good progress in keeping it from burning into Superior, but some structures still remain threatened on the northwestern part of the blaze.

Fire information officers say the fire, which started Sunday, had burned an estimated 4,550 acres, or just over seven square miles, by Friday morning.

DeNitto says he thinks the residents of Superior are resting a little easier now that crews have about six or seven miles of fire line along the southwestern edge of the fire, parallel to the Clark Fork River.

Work Friday included efforts to prevent the northwestern edge of the fire from burning across Keystone Creek and getting the southeastern edge of the fire to burn fuels down to a fire line near Flat Creek.

Authorities say the fight went "really well."  Crews worked on the southeast corner of the fire and were able to bring the fire down to their line and gain good control.

Most of Friday crews were mopping up and looking for hot spots.  The efforts moved further up Flat creek as well as to the Pardee and Keystone areas.  Authorities said they will be looking for opportunities to hold the fire on the northwest corner and the northern edge. 

The fire remains 25 percent estimated containment.

Crews continued battling heat and dry conditions but we're told that with little to no wind, they think conditions should be favorable.

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Here's the latest update from Incident Commander Tom Heintz:

Approximate Size: 4,550                               Containment: 23%

Incident Commander: Tom Heintz

Resources: Hand Crews: (7) Type I crews; (9) Type II crews  

Equipment: (25) Engines, (3) Dozers, (10) Water Tenders

Air Support: Helicopters (2) Type 1, (2) Type 2, (3) Type 3        Total Personnel: 787

Estimated Cost to Date: $4,000,000

 

Fire Update:

After an effective day of firefighting, West Mullan Road is now open to the public east of Sunflower Lane, however, west of Sunflower Lane is open to residents only. Flat Creek Road is open within the city limits. East Mullan Road is open to everyone. Big Eddy Fishing Access remains closed.

Crews continued structure protection, cooling out hotspots on the line adjacent to Superior, and monitoring fire activity along Mullan Road and in Flat Creek. Burn out operations went well and will continue. Crews worked along the ridge between Keystone and Pardee Creeks constructing fireline.  Dozers and hand crews worked the northwest section of the fire constructing line as well. Crews working the east and northeast sections continued to battle rollouts.

Night operations will continue as the fire remains active during the night due to hot and dry weather. Crews will concentrate efforts on containing the fire where it has reached Flat Creek on the eastern side of the fire and will continue digging fireline from the east to northeast sections of the fire. In addition, work will continue on the northwest corner of the fire to prepare for burnout operations tomorrow.

 

Closures: Two new trail orders have been added: Iron Mountain Trail 242 (known as Cascade Falls Trail) from above the falls to the junction with Forest Service Road 97 and National Forest System Trail 51(known as Ninemile Divide Trail) from the beginning at the intersection w/NFSR 582 Section 3, T17N, R25W to the intersection with NFSR 536 Section 30, T17N, R24W. New area closures include: All Forest Service lands within Slowey Campground and the area within the closure boundary, please see area map.  The Clark Fork River remains closed to the public from Big Eddy Fishing access to Slowey Campground. Vista Trail just north of Superior has been closed to public access.

 

Evacuations:   An evacuation center has been established at the Superior Elementary School by the American Red Cross.

 

Special Concerns: 

New fire starts!  Fully extinguish campfires. The public is asked to stay clear of the helicopter dip site for their safety.  Residents are reminded that periods of heavy smoke may be a health hazard and are advised to limit their exposure. About 150 residences are threatened by the fire, but no structures have been damaged.

Residents returning home: Continue creating green space by sprinklers and watering. Embers can still come down from burnt areas. Travel on roads is one of the most hazardous issues as fire trucks and overhead personnel still work in the area. 

More Information: Visit Inciweb at www.inciweb.org, email westmullanfire@gmail.com or call fire information 406-649-9032.