Fire near Flathead Lake continues to rage, remains 0 percent contained

Nicole Girten The Daily Montanan
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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The Elmo fire near Kalispell, Montana on July 30. Photo by Les Zaitz for the Daily Montanan

The Elmo Fire near Flathead Lake is still 0 percent contained and grew in size to more than 12,000 acres during the weekend, according to the incident report updated Monday morning, with weather conditions ripe for the fire to keep burning.

The Elmo Fire, first sparked Friday afternoon with a cause that is still being investigated, grew in size during the weekend to 12,975 acres, with nearly 300 personnel on the fire, the incident report read.

Hot, dry weather is what is making containment difficult with the Elmo fire, according to fire management team spokeswoman Jacque Lavelle.

“The winds are really strong, and it’s just the perfect condition for burning,” she said.

According to the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team Seven, the incident commander, the fire was most active in the northwest side near Cromwell Creek on Sunday and they expect similar fire behavior on Monday.

There have been no injuries or major structures impacted, according to Lavelle.

Lavelle said that during the first response to the fire local crews, volunteer fire departments and tribal firefighters, worked to protect the assets and resources in the area.

Pre-evacuation warnings are still in place for residents south of Lake Mary Ronan Road and west of Highway 93, according to the Northern Rockies IMT press release Monday.

“Make sure you have your belongings ready to go,” Lavelle said for residents near Lake Mary Ronan Road. “The smoke conditions are very high right now, so travel along that Highway 28 is very dangerous. People should have their headlights on and drive much slower than normal, and especially if you’re driving on Highway 93 or that Lake Mary Ronan Road.”

Lavelle said in comparison to last year’s fire season, this year fires started way later, adding that we had a lot more rain.

“It doesn’t make it any less dangerous or any less scary, but definitely a much later fire season than we had last year,” she said.

There are at least six active fires with more 100 acres burning in the state on Monday, according to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fire dashboard.

More than 100 fires were reported last week in the state for a total of 946 this year, according to the MTDNRC on Monday.

Lavelle said the most important thing for people to do now is to act as if it’s high fire danger wherever you are.

“Put out campfires, completely dead out, if you’re even allowed to have them, some areas have gone into no open fires,” she said. “Don’t throw cigarettes out your windows and just be extra cautious if you’re out in nature.”

Northern Rockies IMT is hosting a public meeting Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Elmo Pow Wow Grounds, Highway 93. The meeting will not be available online.

Current closures, per the release:

Highway 28 is open, smoke may cause low visibility, use caution when driving

The Boat Ramp at the Elmo Fishing Access Site is closed

Lake Mary Ronan State Park is closed.