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Lolo Complex Fire evacuees watch and wait, elected officials visit Lolo

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Aug 21 2013 06:57:36 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 21 2013 07:13:07 PM MDT

United States Senator Jon Tester and Montana Governor Steve Bullock made a special trip to Lolo to be briefed on what is now called the nation's top priority fire.

MISSOULA, Mont. -

As of Wednesday 250 homes have been evacuated in the Lolo Complex Fire.

No structures have been lost since the five that were reported burned on Monday.

There are 500 personnel fighting the fire, with more crews on order. There are at least four helicopters available.

Crews are also setting up a mobile retardant base.

The fire brought Montana's top political leaders to Lolo.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Governor Steve Bullock arrived at the Lolo Community Center Wednesday afternoon.

Emergency crews briefed them  on what may be the nation's most volatile fire.

"This fire the other day, when it blew up, went a mile in 15 minutes. That's pretty darn significant," said fire information spokeswoman Dixie Dies.

Residents who are evacuated kept pouring into the fire information center off Highway 12.

Jen Johnson's family's house is safe. But it is threatened. The Johnsons are staying with friends.

"All of our stuff is packed," said Johnson standing with her five children, "our family is altogether and we're out of here. So now our thoughts are with the firefighters."

Johnson said she is more worried about the firefighters and volunteers than she is about her house.

"A house can be rebuilt," said the young mother.

Residents in the fire area can check their property on a case-by-case basis.

The Montana Highway Patrol oversees the roadblock that starts just a couple miles west of Highway 93. They check special permits.

"[We] get them through so they can take care of their business," said Sgt. Chad Dever. "Then we ask for those (permits) back when they come back so we know they are safe."

Missoula County Commissioner Michele Landquist lives in the area. She makes sure there's plenty of garden hose at her house.

"There were some good sized chunks of warm coal landing on things," said the commissioner.

At fire camp, crews are ready to accommodate a lot of people.

Firefighters are ready with more on the way.