PHILIPSBURG - On the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the Moose Meadow fire went on a spectacular run Saturday, exploding from 600 acres to 1,400 acres before the cold front hit. Then all bets were off, said fire information officer Jill Cobb.

Smoke from that fire was visible late Saturday in the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys – and Cobb said it was anyone’s guess how many acres will have burned by Sunday. Flames were moving toward Moose Meadow, north and east, she said, “and it’s putting up quite a bit of smoke.”

“We hoped to get by without much action today, but that’s not how it played out at the end of the game,” she said. “The winds are just very squirrely. We can’t really tell which way it’s going to go right now. We’ve got a lot of people with eyes on it right now, trying to figure out where this fire is headed.”

A lightning fire, Moose Meadow is burning about 20 miles southwest of Philipsburg.

Cobb said 120 firefighters and five helicopters were on the job Saturday, and 10 more crews and a sixth helicopter were expected on Sunday.

“We have heavy equipment on the way, so we can get up in there and open up roads,” she said. “Then we could safely get firefighters closer in there.

“We have many more crews arriving tomorrow, and the hope is we’ll be able to put boots on the ground.”

Editor Sherry Devlin can be reached at 523-5250 or at sdevlin@missoulian.com.

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