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Moose Meadow Fire continues to burn outside Philipsburg

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 29 2013 06:16:22 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 29 2013 10:05:03 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Wildfire first alert coverage after weekend blazes burn thousands of acres and force Montanans from their homes. One of the fires that saw the most explosive growth is burning south of Philipsburg.

Red flag conditions on Saturday pushed that fire to 2,200 acres.

Residents have been evacuated from the Moose Lake area.

"Out here, the mountains are majestic and beautiful and overwhelming, but there's a whole other side to the experience of summers in Montana," said Rachel Hartman, who is visiting Montana for the summer.

Hartman came to Montana to work with a political research organization based out in the Philipsburg area, but the Moose Meadow Fire forced her and about 30 others to the the Philipsburg High School.

It's a situation that Alice Brace, a Red Cross liaison, is familiar with.

She explained, "I didn't understand it until last year when I was evacuated. You are given short notice and you think, 'where am I going to stay? What am I going to do?'"

Firefighters like Tony Randall have their work cut out for them. Randall is managing the helicopter base.

Randall explained, "Because of the rough terrain, it's very hard for the ground crews to come in and keep up with the fire activity that's moving, so we keep a lot of air crafts to support them."

Firefighters said that due to the remoteness of this location, they're fighting this fire mostly by air.

"We've made very good progress with the fire," said Randall, "but the fire's also advancing as well."

Back at the ranch, other firefighters like Justin Anderson are working to protect the homes and buildings in the fire's path.

"The idea is to set up a perimeter around the structures," said Anderson, "and get a wet area to keep the embers from landing in dry grass and starting new spot fires."

They showed us the sprinkler system set up to help protect the area, and they say it's a good system.

"If you do live out in the timber, in the woods, make sure you do have something like these folks do," said Anderson.

The firefighters said they're doing all they can, but the Moose Meadow Fire is taking a back seat to other fires in the state right now, and they're not getting all the resources they'd like.

And the weather hasn't helped much either.

"We like good cloud cover and high humidity," said Randall. "It's been the opposite: blue bird skies and low RH's and plenty of wind."

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Here is Monday evening's Moose Meadow Fire update from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest:

Current Size: 2,500 acres Containment: 5%
Strategy: Full Suppression Structures Threatened: 30
Structures Lost: 0
Structure Protection: Implemented

Today’s Activity: High temperatures and gusty winds created another active fire day with the fire burning further to the south and east. The Evacuation Order issued on July 28th by the Granite County Sheriff is still in effect. The Evacuation Order affects the Middle Fork Road, south of the junction with Forest Service Road 5130. Hand crews extended the direct fireline construction on the northwest and southwest flanks of the fire. These accomplishments gave firefighters their first area of containment. Aircraft continued critical suppression support with both water and retardent drops. The structure protection group continued structure protection measures within the affected communities.

Current Resources: The number of firefighters on the incident is 480. Resources assigned include eleven crews, five helicopters, seven engines, three water tenders, one dozer, four skidgins, four feller bunchers, and support personnel.

Planned Actions: Weather conditions are expected to be similar to yesterday. It is expected that the fire will have some torching, as well development of some spot fires up to ½ mile ahead of the main fire edge. Smoke columns will become highly visible in the mid afternoon as more fuels burn. Crews will continue fireline construction on the northwest and southwest flanks of the main fire. Fire managers are maintaining two spike camps near the fire for operational efficiency. Heavy equipment will continue operating to improve access to the southeastern section of the fire. The structure protection group will continue their efforts and are prepared to respond quickly to spot fires that may threaten structures. Strong aerial support with water and retardant will be utilized.

Special Messages/Closures: Displaced Evacuees may call the Department of Emergency Services at (406-360-1626). An evacuation shelter has been established at Granite High School in Philipsburg.The fire area is under a Forest Closure Order No. 2013-D8-027 because of concerns for public health and safety. The following trails are closed: 8109, 8020, 8162, 8019 and 8161.