Wildfire sparks Montana evacuation

  • Fri Aug 27th, 2010 10:32pm
  • News

Associated Press

CANYON CREEK, Mont. — Authorities in western Montana roused people from their beds early Friday to flee an approaching wildfire, as thunderstorms sparked dozens more in blazes in Idaho and Nevada.

Montana authorities began knocking on doors at 3 a.m. Friday, warning residents that a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest was threatening their homes.

The Downing Mountain fire was reported Thursday evening and grew to 415 acres by Friday afternoon, said forest spokesman Tod McKay. But the blaze was moving west, away from houses and away from the town of Hamilton, which is just three miles away, he said.

About 70 homes in the Blodgett and Canyon Creek areas were evacuated and fire officials said residents of another 100 homes were warned they may have to leave.

“This is not an easy process for residents to be told at 3 a.m. that they must leave their homes which are currently threatened. Thankfully everyone has been very understanding and cooperative,” said Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman.

A shelter for displaced families was set up at the county fairgrounds, which also has taken in horses from the fire zone, McKay said.

Meanwhile, overnight showers slowed the Davis Gulch wildfire in the Helena National Forest near Stemple Pass enough to allow homeowners to return to their properties on Friday.

But the people who left their homes Thursday were told to be ready to leave again at a moment’s notice, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told a crowd of more than 100 gathered at the Canyon Creek School.