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Elmo Fire balloons in size

by Valley Press
| August 1, 2022 12:00 AM

Dangerous fire weather fanned the Elmo 2 Fire over the weekend as the blaze continued to expand its footprint on the Flathead Reservation west of Flathead Lake.

Infrared mapping put the fire at nearly 13,000 acres on Monday morning, with 0% containment.

The human-caused blaze started July 29 in grass and quickly expanded into thick timber 8 miles west of Elmo and north of Montana 28. In a matter of hours, the blaze had charred 2,000 acres and was out of control.

A red flag warning was in place Sunday and Monday for the Flathead Reservation. Gusty winds, low humidity and an unstable atmosphere were expected to result in critical fire weather through the evening. Northwest winds of 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph, were possible. Relative humidity was as low at 8%, with high temperatures climbing into the upper 90s.

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center daily report noted that about 20 structures were threatened by the Elmo Fire, but none had burned as of Monday.

Evacuation orders along Montana 28 were lifted on Saturday evening and the highway reopened to traffic. Residents near Black Lake and Lake Mary Ronan were advised to be prepared to leave if the fire shifts directions, the Lake County Office of Emergency Management warned.

When the fire started Friday, Elmo residents were prompted to leave immediately.

Big Arm State Park was reopened to campers and visitors Sunday following a one-day closure. Lake Mary Ronan State Park remained closed while the area stays under an evacuation notice.

Montana Red Cross opened a shelter at Linderman School, 312 4th Ave. E. in Polson, for those displaced by the fire. 

An estimated 293 firefighters were on the scene Monday. The blaze was being managed by a Type 2 team.

Fire crews have been able to hold the fire north of Montana 28, according to a Monday report from the CSKT Division of Fire.

On Sunday, Bitterroot Hotshots worked in the northwest portion of the fire holding and improving existing line. Firefighter efforts were supported by four scooper planes and four single engine air tankers in the northwest.

On the northeast side of the fire, the Helena Hotshots worked directly on the fire’s edge to the east towards Chief Cliffs estates, while the Idaho Panhandle Hotshots constructed line to the west.

Crews engaged directly on the fire’s east edge as well, with the Bitterroot Hotshots and a Type II Initial Attack crew working their way to the north.

The cost to battle the blaze was estimated at $600,000 as of Monday.

For the latest fire information visit www.mtfireinfo.org.

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The Elmo 2 Fire burns near high voltage power transmission lines west of Flathead Lake near Elmo on Friday, July 29, 2022. The fire had burned about 4,000 acres by Saturday morning, July 30. (Rob Zolman/Lake County Leader)

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A helicopter drop water on the Elmo Fire burning west of Flathead Lake near Elmo on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Rob Zolman/Lake County Leader)

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