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Thorne Creek fire continues to grow, Missoula could get wetter weather
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Thorne Creek fire continues to grow, Missoula could get wetter weather

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Smoke Missoula

The Northern Rockies Type 1 team that managed the Thorne Creek fire as part of the West Lolo Complex in the first two weeks of the blaze will retake command on Saturday morning.

The Northern Rockies Type 1 team that managed the Thorne Creek fire as part of the West Lolo Complex in the first two weeks of the blaze will retake command Saturday morning.

The fire has consumed 13,831 acres and is 0% contained. It has caused four injuries and 225 personnel are assigned to the fight. Assistance from the Montana National Guard and an additional two helicopters have been requested, according to a Friday report.

Nine aircraft were working on the fire on Thursday, the report said. The Type 1 team taking command is comprised of many Sanders County residents.

Crews have prepped indirect control lines on Sundance Ridge to the east of the fire, the report said. On the south side of the fire, crews performed dust abatement on roads on the south side of the fire. Teams on the west cleaned pockets of unburned fuel to "ensure a strong containment line."

Aircraft dumped water and retardant on a large spot fire west of Graves Creek Road.

"Crews anchored in and held the line with helicopters and hand crews," the fire report said.

Crews were using bucket drops from aircraft on the northwest flank of the fire on Friday. They are continuing to hold along the western flank, cooling and mopping up along the fireline. Heavy equipment continues to improve the fireline in the northwest. 

A community meeting was set for 6 p.m. Friday at Ainsworth Park in Thompson Falls. There are currently 206 residents under evacuation orders. A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at the Thompson Falls Community Center. 

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Hay Creek

The Hay Creek fire, four miles west of Polebridge, has grown slightly to 2,082 acres. It is 0% contained.

There are 143 personnel assigned to the fire and two helicopters. Successful helicopter drops slowed spot fires around Hay Creek Road, a fire report said.

Flathead County road crews are grading and providing dust abatement on North Fork Road along a 10-mile section south of the Camas Road intersection. Travelers should expect long delays.

The fire is being managed by a local Type 3 Incident Management Team under a full suppression strategy. An evacuation warning is in effect for all residents east and west of North Fork Road from Home Ranch Bottoms north to and including Moose Creek Road and the community of Polebridge.

A community meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Sondreson Community Hall. 

Burnt Peak, South Yaak

The Burnt Peak fire has now reached 46% containment and has burned 3,152 acres. The South Yaak fire is now at 5,837 acres and remains 20% contained.

Great Basin Type 2 Incident Management Team is overseeing efforts on both fires. A combined 434 personnel are working on the two fires. Three helicopters have been assigned to the Burnt Peak fire.

Both fires are burning near Troy. Residences in North Fork Keeler Creek have been placed on pre-evacuation notice. The Lincoln County sheriff has conducted mandatory evacuations for all residents on East Side Road and Kilbrennan Lake Road.

The Burnt Peak fire continues to move across the slope on the northwest side of the fire and made upslope runs toward Survey Mountain.

At the South Yaak fire, flames have moved rapidly and crossed Kilbrennan Lake Road between Kilbrennan and Skinner lakes. The fire on the east side of the road has "high potential" to spread to the east, toward Gunsight Mountain. 

Burnout operations on the northwest corner of the fire are underway to protect private structures. The fire is expected to continue to spread east of Kilbrennan Lake Road toward Gunsight Mountain and O'Brien Creek.

On Friday, crews were prepping roads on the east side of the fire. No structure damage has been reported on either fire.

Granite Pass Complex

Four fires near Lolo Pass continued to burn, with the total size now at 4,847 acres. It is 4% contained.

There are 287 personnel assigned to the complex and a Type 1 Incident Management team will take command on Saturday morning. The Lolo Pass Visitors Center is now open, but part of the parking lot is closed due to firefighting operations being staged out of the area.

Lee Creek Campground remains closed. The area from Martin Creek to the Idaho border remains under an evacuation warning.

The BM Hill fire, which is the largest in the complex, is now at 4,131 acres. Two smaller fires — the Shotgun and Boulder Creek blazes — are expected to merge with the BM Hill fire in the coming days.

Firefighters are continuing to implement a containment strategy. A key priority for crews is to keep the fire from crossing over Highway 12.

Smoke update

Missoula got a bit of a break from smoke on Thursday, but it rolled back in during the evening hours.

Conditions were "unhealthy" in Frenchtown, and "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in Missoula, Lolo and Seeley Lake on Friday morning.

Hazy conditions were likely to last throughout the day Friday. Saturday is also expected to be hot, hazy and sunny.

Sunday could begin to bring in some wetter weather, with the best chance for precipitation Sunday night and Monday. However, the National Weather Service said on Friday afternoon gusty winds could push across Montana.

The release said the winds could cause increased fire behavior and endanger fire crews.

The Stateline Complex is sending smoke to Missoula, while the Granite Pass Complex and Storm Theatre Complex are both sending smoke to the Bitterroot Valley.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or send him an email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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