Montana's Lolo Creek Complex fire nation's top firefighting priority

Aug. 22, 2013 at 9:42 AM
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MISSOULA, Mont., Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The Lolo Creek Complex fire in Montana was named the nation's top firefighting priority as officials said weather could determine if homes will be threatened.

"The good news is we actually are the top priority in the nation for resources," incident commander Greg Poncin said during a briefing with Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester at the Lolo command post. "So that bodes pretty well. The bad news is, the well is still pretty dry."

Fire officials said weather conditions could play into whether the fire begins affecting homes along Sleeman Gulch and possibly the the western edge of Lolo.

Bullock said a contingent of 90 state National Guard troops, including two Black Hawk helicopter teams, was expected to be in position Thursday, The (Missoula) Missoulian reported.

Bullock and Tester joined Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen for a first-hand look at the destruction caused by Lolo Creek Complex, which has burned 8,598 acres so far.

In California, meanwhile, the Rim fire near Yosemite National Park spread Wednesday night as hundreds of firefighters worked to stop flames as they burned timber and brush in the rugged terrain, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The fire in the Stanislaus National Forest belched huge clouds of smoke that could be seen for miles, witnesses said. It has consumed more than 16,000 acres and was 5 percent contained as of Wednesday night, fire officials said.

The fire swelled from 800 acres to more than 10,000 acres in a day and forced the closure of California 120, a main artery leading to Yosemite.

"It's still an active, growing fire," incident command spokesman Dennis Godfrey said Wednesday. "We're putting a lot of resources into it."

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