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UPDATE – West Mullan Fire Over 4,000 Acres – Evacuation Center Opened [AUDIO]

retardant drop
Photo courtesy of Cococino National Forest/flickr.com

UPDATE – 8:00 a. m. Friday, July 19.

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Department has evacuated over 100 homes near the West Mullan Fire. The American Red Cross has opened an emergency evacuation center at the Superior Elementary School. Strong winds have pushed the fire to over 4,000 acres. The fire was discovered last Sunday, and the cause is still under investigation.

 

UPDATE – 2:00 a.m. Thursday, July 18, the following report is from the Inciweb.org, released at about 9:00 p.m. Wednesday.

The West Mullan fire remained active overnight. Crews were able to make additional progress on suppression activities above the residential areas north of West Mullan Road. The suppression line along Pardee Creek on the west side was strengthened with some burnout operations between the line and the fire. Several small spot fires occurred on the south side with upslope spread of the fire. Spotting is also detected on the east flank toward the Flat Creek drainage. These spots are up high on the mountain. Today, firefighters will continue line construction above Pardee Creek to tie in with an existing road. Crews will look for opportunities to construct line and attack the fire directly on East flank. An existing road on the northeast side will be prepared to serve as a contingency line. On the south side of the fire above residences, mopup of hot spots in the burned area will take place. Local fire departments are providing structure protection.

Residences north of Clark Fork River in Superior are under mandatory evacuation. West Mullan and East Mullan Road from Sunflower Lane to Big Eddy and side roads in between, are now under mandatory evacuation. Flat Creek Road is also under this evacuation order.

Pat McKelvey, Fire Information Officer

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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has closed a five-mile section of the Clark Fork River near Superior so that water can be safely drawn from the river by helicopters fighting the West Mullan fire.

Regional Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel said Tuesday that the closure will mainly affect recreation on the river.

“Mainly, it’s affecting recreationists on the river,” Saffel said. “Helicopters will be using that five-mile stretch to dip water out of the river, from the Big Eddy fishing access site to the Dry Creek access site.We need to allow the firefighters access in order to do their work without worrying about injuring other folks, so we’re asking people to stay off that portion of the river.”

Saffel said he has no idea how long the closure will remain in effect, since an early Tuesday morning report from fire information officer Pat McKelvey said the fire was zero percent contained.

“I don’t think they have a good handle on how long it’s going to take to suppress the fire, so we’re going to have the closure on for as long as fire activities continue,” Saffel said. “It’s indefinite at this point.”

Regional Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel

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The firefighting effort took to the sky on Tuesday, as an early morning inversion dissipated, allowing helicopters and slurry bombers to make their runs on the fire. Fire Information Officer Pat McKelvey said the ‘air show’ started a little earlier than usual.

“We’ve got our helicopter and air show starting a little early this morning,” McKelvey said. “We’ve actually running retardant along with the helicopters on the ridge right above Flat Creek, which is directly north of the town of Superior.”

McKelvey echoed FWP’s Pat Saffel regarding the safety aspect of closing a portion of the Clark River.

“It was a safety concern,” McKelvey said. “All those transportation corridors that run right through this narrow part of the canyon here, the Interstate highway, the Clark Fork River, and West Mullan Road. People were stopping to see the helicopters, including floating down the river and taking a look at it, and we just can’t have floaters and helicopters dipping water mixing together.”

The cause of the West Mullan Fire is still being investigated.

West Mullan Fire Information Officer Pat McKelvey

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