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Missoula County issues fire emergency, monitoring several fires of concern

The Granite Pass Complex of fires, seen on the skyline to the west of the Missoula Valley, is among the current fire concerns for local officials. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Emergency officials in Missoula County are watching a number of fires closely and have taken steps to protect private property and issue evacuation warnings in the event they’re needed.

On Tuesday, county commissioners declared a wildfire emergency – a move that makes available certain resources to fire managers and gives them additional authority.

“As we go into fire season, we use indicators to determine when it’s appropriate for elected officials to declare an emergency for that particular event,” said Adrian Beck, director of the Office of Emergency Management in Missoula County. “In the past couple weeks, we’ve seen our fire danger rapidly increase and our conditions rapidly plummet.”

The fire danger on the Lolo National Forest was elevated to extreme on Monday, making Tuesday’s proclamation timely. Still, the dangerous conditions and declared emergency have come absent of any new restrictions.

Those are recommended by a team of fire managers across western Montana.

A map of active fire events in the continental U.S. as of Wednesday morning. (Inciweb)

Among the concerns for fire officials, the Granite Pass Complex burning near the Montana-Idaho border southwest of Missoula continues to spread in heavy timber and steep terrain. The fire had grown to 1,130 acres by Tuesday night.

Roughly 40 personnel are assigned to the fire, which is listed as 0% contained.

“It’s starting to encroach into Montana and Missoula County,” said Beck. “Right now, the primary concern is Lolo Hot Springs. The Type 3 incident management team and sheriff’s office has been doing notifications and prep work around the hot springs. It’s something we’re keeping an eye on.”

Officials also are watching the West Lolo Complex burning on the Superior Ranger District west of Missoula. The Deep Lookout fire is moving toward the Ninemile Divide and remains another area of concern.

“We’ve been in planning meetings with the sheriff’s department and management team in terms of long-range planning for potential evacuations and impacts to private property in the Ninemile area,” Beck said.

A community meeting will be held at Community Hall in Thompson Falls on Thursday 6:00 p.m. to discuss the West Lolo Complex fires. The meeting will be open to the public and streamed live on the West Lolo Complex Facebook page.