Crews continued to make progress on two wildfires burning near Missoula on Tuesday, taking advantage of the cooler weather to mop up small spot fires and reinforce firelines.
The Hot Boot fire, which burned 97 acres over the weekend northeast of Ovando, was 80 percent contained as of Tuesday, while a 27-acre fire burning in Sleeman Creek about five miles northwest of Lolo was estimated to be better than 75 percent contained.
The Hot Boot fire was reported to the Missoula Interagency Dispatch Center on Saturday afternoon, and is believed to be human-caused. Officials continue to investigate its exact cause, according to Paula Short, public information officer with the Montana Department of Natural Resources.
At its height, more than 45 firefighters were assigned to the Hot Boot fire, including personnel from the Ovando Fire Department, six engines from the DNRC, one helicopter, and a few pieces of contract heavy equipment.
The 20-person hand crew from the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge also worked to mop-up the fire and reinforce lines. About 30 people remain assigned to the fire.
The Sleeman Creek fire started Sunday as an intentionally ignited debris pile in a homeowner's backyard, but burned out of control due to heavy afternoon winds. The fire commanded the attention of 30 firefighters on Monday, including three engines and one water tender from multiple agencies, including Missoula Rural Fire, Frenchtown Fire District, and the U.S. Forest Service.
A burnout of the southern flank and the west end of the fire was successfully completed Monday night, and crews secured a line around the entire fire. Engines were in place throughout the night, monitoring any fire behavior that might have occurred after the burnout operations had ended, said Clare Delaney, a fire information officer for the Lolo National Forest.
Some rolling debris on Monday caused new spot fires on the southern flank, but those were quickly contained.
Fire crews continued to patrol and monitor the fire lines on Tuesday, and began mop-up operations along the fire's perimeter.