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Lolo Creek Complex burns 3,500 acres, officials confirm loss of homes

Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:37:00 AM MST
Updated On: Aug 20 2013 07:56:19 AM MDT

Authorities have closed Highway 12 due to the Schoolhouse Fire and the West Fork 2 Fire outside of Lolo.

LOLO, Mont. -

Officials are now managing two fires burning outside Lolo under the name Lolo Creek Complex. Firefighters have battled wind and tough weather conditions as they attack the West Fork II Fire and Schoolhouse Fire burning off Highway 12.

The complex is now estimated to have burned 3,500 acres. Officials say four to eight structures have been lost, which includes some homes.

Several hundred homes have received evacuation notices. Areas under evacuation notice are Bear Creek, Elk Meadows, Arena Drive, Thayer Road, Mill Creek Road, Severin Meadows, Sleeman Gulch Road, Balsam Root Road, Graves Creek Road, Nez Pierce, Claims Stake, Lee Tennant Campground, Lolo Creek Campground and Chickaman Road. Lolo Creek residents between mm 25-15 have been given pre-evacuation notices.

Sheriff's deputies are strongly encouraging people to leave if they receive notice -- residents may not receive a second notice.

A planned public meeting for tonight at Travelers Rest State Park was canceled due to ongoing emergency fire operations and evacuations. Information for residents is available at the Lolo Super Stop.

Highway 12 is closed beginning at the junction of Highway 93 all the way to the Idaho state line.

An evacuation shelter is available at Christ the King Church, 1400 Gerald Street, in Missoula. There is also an information hotline set up at (406) 258-4636.

Firefighting resources are being moved from the Nimrod Fire burning east of Missoula. That fire is now 60 percent contained. Resources are thin due to other fires burning across the northwest United States.

The following information is from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation:

The Lolo Creek Complex consists of two fires, formerly the Schoolhouse Fire and the West Fork II Fire. Firefighters were challenged today with extreme fire behavior, and the fire burned actively from early this morning, with low humidity, gusty winds and temperatures in the 90s. The Lolo Creek Complex is estimated at 3,500 acres, though fire managers hope to have a better map of the fire perimeter later today. The fire is being managed jointly by the Lolo National Forest and the Montana DNRC. 

A National, Type 1 Incident Management Team is en route to the fire, and will be briefed on the situation tomorrow. Predicted weather over the next several days will continue to challenge firefighters; heavy smoke will impact air operations, and the potential for fire growth is very high. 

There are confirmed structure losses, including homes, though the exact number has not been verified at this time. There are voluntary evacuations for residents along Bear Creek Road and Thayer Road. There is a shelter at Christ the King Church, 1400 Gerald Street, in Missoula. Missoula County Disaster & Emergency Services has established a hotline for affected residents with information on shelters, care for large animals, and other information. The number is 258-4636. 

No injuries have been reported. Additional information will be posted to Inciweb under the incident name Lolo Creek Complex at www.inciweb.org.