Hwy 93 closed
BLACK CAT FIRE NEARS HOMES,
EVACUATIONS IN EFFECT
By NewWest.Net Staff, 8-16-07
MST “Things are getting interesting” at the Black Cat Fire northwest of Missoula, fire information officer Paula Rosenthal said.
The Montana Highway Patrol has closed Highway 93, mandatory evacuations are in effect for
at least 30 residences on Fred Lane, and Interstate-90
may be intermittently closed this evening. The fire’s acreage is not known at this time since it has been too smoky
for aerial reconnaissance, Rosenthal said. Thursday morning the fire was approaching 1,000 acres.
The Black Cat Fire near Evaro, north of Missoula and west of Highway 93, made a run Wednesday night to the southwest
with a change of wind and was nearing the drainage to the north of Fred Lane.
“It’s exactly where fire managers didn’t think it would go,” fire
information officer Paula Rosenthal said.
The fire likely grew another 300 to 400 acres, she said, which would up the fire to about
1,000 acres in size. Today’s aerial mapping will provide a more solid figure, she said. No new evacuations were ordered
as a result of the fire’s movement.
“The big news of the day” is the approaching cold front that threatens to bring
thunderstorms and high winds, Rosenthal said, but it’s less ominous now with light 15 mph wind gusts expected, as opposed
to the 50 mph gusts forecast earlier in the week.
This morning the fire was calm beneath a smoke inversion—like most of Western
Montana, Rosenthal said. About 50 personnel are currently working the blaze.
Today a “short” (reduced staff) Type I incident management team from Colorado will take over command. A Type I team is merited because of
the fire’s complexity, Rosenthal said, as it’s threatening BPA and NorthWestern Energy power lines, a microwave
tower site, a wooden railroad trestle, and a number of structures, plus its proximity to the highway. Lynn Barclay will be
the incident commander.
If the day goes well the new management team will have an incident command post set up by
this evening, Rosenthal said.
Evacuations remain in effect for residences—about 30—on the west side of highway
93, south of Bear Grass Mountain Road and north of
O’Keefe. Homes on the east side of 93 were issued a pre-evacuation notice Wednesday. The fire remains more than a mile
from the nearest homes.
Crews spent most of the day Wednesday on the fire’s eastern flank, the side closest
to homes (although there are several homes to the north of the fire as well), building line as air support dropped water and
retardant to slow the blaze from crossing Highway 93, Rosenthal said early Wednesday evening. Dozers working on the north
side of the fire also got help from the two helicopters and one air tanker on the fire.
The fire is under DNRC jurisdiction and it started about five miles east of Frenchtown Pond,
said Lolo National Forest
spokesman Boyd Hartwig.
It was reported about 2:15 in the afternoon Tuesday and was immediately responded to by aerial
and ground resources from around the area, including engines and personnel from Frenchtown, Victor and Florence volunteer
fire departments, Missoula Rural fire department, Lolo National Forest and DNRC. Three helicopters and one air tanker were
also working the fire. Despite the effort, the fire continued to be erratic and active into the evening, Rosenthal said.
The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation.