Wildfire up Missoula’s Rattlesnake prompts trail closures; more resources en route

The fire is burning on a steep north-facing slope along Rattlesnake Creek about 4.5 miles up the trail corridor. Due to tree torching and spotfires caused by firebrands, the flames are spreading to the north toward Mineral Peak. (Courtesy photo)

Rattlesnake Recreation Area trails have been closed as a wildfire in the Rattlesnake Trail corridor continues to spread.

Lolo Interagency Hotshot firefighters were still working on the Beeskove Fire on Thursday afternoon after it grew to more than 35 acres by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday due to high winds.

The fire is burning on a steep north-facing slope along Rattlesnake Creek about 4.5 miles up the trail corridor. Due to tree torching and spotfires caused by firebrands, the flames are spreading to the north toward Mineral Peak.

“We did just get an email confirmation from the Lolo National Forest,” Adriane Beck, director of Disaster and Emergency Services for Missoula County, said Thursday afternoon. “They had to put a trail closure in effect at the Ratlesnake Trailhead there for the Beeskove fire. Last night’s winds did cause it to roll out of containment line.”

To give firefighters space to work and for public safety, an area closure is now in place for the Rattlesnake Creek Trail #515 and #515.7, the East Fork Rattlesnake Trail #514, portions of Sheep Mountain Trail #513, and the Mineral Peak Trail #511.

It also includes the Rattlesnake Horse Trailhead, which is closed for the staging of fire vehicles.

“This is a popular recreation area for Missoula, but right now firefighters need space to focus on the job at hand,” said Jen Hensiek, Missoula District Ranger. “We ask that the public respect the closure as we work to suppress this fire.”

The Missoula Ranger District plans to fully suppress the fire and has deployed 70 firefighters, including two Type 2 crews. Three helicopters are assisting firefighters with water drops to cool hot spots within the fire perimeter and help control the fire’s spread.

On Thursday, however, the district upgraded the fire to a Type 3 because the weather over the next few days is predicted to be hotter with no moisture and the steep terrain is difficult for firefighters to work in. As a result, more resources will be directed to the fire.

Helicopters and other aircraft will be working throughout the day so a temporary flight restriction is in place over the area.

Smoke may be visible from the upper Rattlesnake area and Missoula. Currently, smoke is drifting north and east.

The Beeskove Fire was spotted Monday morning at 9:30 and Hotshot crews were on the scene within a half-hour. They held the fire to less than an acre until winds whipped up on Wednesday.

So far this year, firefighters have responded to 11 lightning wildfires and 23 human-caused fires on the Lolo National Forest.