Fire That Hit Homes Near Lolo Peak Was Likely Part of Out-of-Control Burnout Operation
The Lolo Peak Fire grew tragically fast this past week driven by strong winds and dry fuels it managed to gain over 9,000 acres in just one day, but it appears that the portion of the blaze that destroyed two homes at the base of Lolo Peak was actually started by the firefighters themselves.
"[The loss of those two homes] probably resulted from the second day of burnout operations we were doing," said Fire Information Officer Mike Cole. "The fire probably got a little bit too intense and threw some embers across the line, that's the logical assumption. That is the unfortunate result of firefighting when you are trying to get more black between the line and the direction the fire is coming."
Despite the losses, Cole says the burnout operation likely saved many homes.
"We try to make sure that no structures ever burn, that is the main goal of every firefighter out here, but without conducting that burnout operation where we had a lot of black from the line towards the fire, before that fire ever approached that area, if we would have not done that, we'd have a very different situation down in the valley and, probably, that fire would have moved down into the residential areas because that was our very last line of defense," Cole said.
By Monday morning, the fire has grown to over 31,000 acres. It is being fought by just under 1,100 firefighting personnel, and has become the highest priority fire in the Northern Rockies region.