HAMILTON – A quick mutual-aid response from both the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department and Bitterroot National Forest firefighters squelched the largest of two lightning-caused wildfires near Hamilton.
And a heavy dose of rain Wednesday helped firefighters get the upper hand on the second fire.
“Mother Nature really helped us out,” said Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn. “It’s looking really good. We’re pretty close to containment.”
The fires were located on private land that is part of the original Bitterroot Stock Farm, east of Hamilton.
The larger of the two was named the Mountain House fire. It burned through sagebrush, grass and scattered timber.
The 31-acre fire was considered 100 percent contained Wednesday morning.
Mohn credited the quick response from two U.S. Forest Service helicopters and local firefighters in keeping the fire’s size to a minimum.
When Mohn arrived on the scene Tuesday evening, he found a fire raging through sagebrush with 15- to 20-foot flame lengths.
“The winds were pretty strong and erratic,” Mohn said. “We had a very good response. The Forest Service put up two helicopters right away. We had a good initial attack and now we’re mopping up.”
The second fire, called St. Clair, was burning farther up the mountain in heavy timber with a lot of downfall. It is also located on the same ranch property.
After getting a handle on the Mountain House fire, some of the firefighting crew went up the hill to attack the smaller fire that had burned about five acres as of Wednesday.
The St. Clair fire was burning on 90 percent slopes. Firefighters are both working to build fire line and watching for rolling debris that could start new fires further down the mountain.
Mohn said that fire could be fully contained Thursday.
The fire danger remains at “very high” on the Bitterroot National Forest, which means that fires will start easily, spread rapidly and are very difficult to control.
The Bitterroot Forest remains under stage 1 restrictions, which allow campfires only in designated recreational sites with have a provided fire ring. Smoking is prohibited outside a vehicle, a developed recreational site or in an area where all flammable materials have been cleared for three feet in diameter.