An injured firefighter was airlifted late Tuesday afternoon from the Beeskove fire burning in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, according to a Forest Service release.
"The firefighter sustained a lower leg inujry and was airlifted directly to (Providence) St. Patrick's Hospital for medical treatment," it said. The firefighter was released after being treated.
Leigh Golden, spokesperson for the Lolo National Forest, declined to provide information on the injured firefighter's age or hometown. The firefighter was airlifted at 4:45 p.m. based on the location of the accident, Golden said. "The personnel who are treating the patient on the ground made the decision based on distance and the time it would take to transport the patient to the hospital," Golden said.
Earlier Thursday, the Beeskove fire was described as a “dirty burner” that’s expected to stick around for a while before possibly kicking up its heels.
Adriane Beck, the Missoula County director of the Office of Emergency Management, told county commissioners Tuesday that the fire is burning in “nasty terrain” in sub-alpine fir that’s not fully cured or dried out.
“The good news is we’re not seeing a lot of smoke inundation. The bad news is in two weeks we’ll probably see it stand up,” Beck said. “It’s a dirty burner right now, and when we look at the terrain where it’s burning there’s no good place to make a stand.”
What smoke is being generated is wafting into the Missoula Valley during the evenings. Jeff Kitsmiller with the National Weather Service said stable winds during the day are quieting at night, allowing the smoke to settle into the lower elevations.
“Once we get stable, we get the down-valley winds and it will start bringing that smoke down,” Kitsmiller said.
Still, the air quality in Missoula, as well as in Seeley Lake and Hamilton, was rated as "good" on Tuesday.
The lightning-sparked Beeskove fire grew by only 29 acres Monday night into Tuesday, for a total of 211 acres as of 11:30 a.m. It’s burning about 5 miles northeast of the main Rattlesnake trailhead, and making some uphill runs and group tree torching within the fire perimeter, according to information from the Lolo National Forest.
Firefighters have created an 18- to 24-inch-wide fire line from Rattlesnake Creek up to the southwestern corner of the fire. That fire line will allow them to use drip torches in the upcoming days to burn out fuels on a controlled basis, and the two combined efforts are expected to create a barrier to the fire spreading along Rattlesnake Creek.
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At this point, it’s not considered contained. But more resources are arriving, which should total 175 firefighters and six helicopters. Most of those firefighters are local crews, including 20-person hotshot teams from both the Lolo and Bitterroot national forests. It’s being managed by a Type 3 team.
“Type 3 are a more informal team mainly made up of local resources with qualifications to work on a fire,” said Golden, the Lolo National Forest spokesperson.
Despite no structures being threatened and the fire burning in the Rattlesnake National Recreation, moving toward Wisherd Ridge, firefighters are using full suppression tactics as a precaution.
“Missoula winds can be really crazy, and if the fire was to move to the south, structures would be threatened,” Golden said. Missoula County's fire danger was set Monday to "very high."
With the forecast calling for more hot and dry weather, Missoula District Ranger Jennifer Hensiek asked for patience as firefighters continue to engage and suppress the fire when and where it is safe to do so, and where they can be successful.
“Due to the location in the steep and rugged terrain, it is likely this will take a longer effort by crews and fire managers to establish containment,” Hensiek said. “We continue to work closely with our partners at Missoula County, Montana DNRC, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and the Nature Conservancy to assess where firefighters can engage this challenging fire.”
Area closures remain in place for the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, including the horse trailhead and numerous other trails.
No burning restrictions are in place, but the fire danger is listed at “very high.” Firefighters have responded to 13 lightning ignited wildfires on the Lolo National Forest this summer, and 26 human-caused fires. They burned a total of 234 acres so far.
The 5,310-acre lightning-caused Moss Ranch fire 14 miles southwest of the town of Ronan, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was listed as 60% contained Tuesday afternoon.
Neither structures nor infrastructure was threatened by the fire, which is being fought by 120 personnel, according to the update on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' Division of Fire Facebook page. Nenemay Road, FB-1000 and FB-4000 roads remain closed.