Storm sparks fires
LAKE COUNTY – A strong thunderstorm sparked wildfires and caused power outages across Lake County Monday evening.
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire Prevention Technician Devlin LaFrombois said four fires were reported Monday evening and one was reported Tuesday morning, though firefighters got them under control quickly.
“Some of them had rain with them and that kept them not very active,” LaFrombois said of the fires. “Most were less than half an acre. Two reached about an acre and a half.”
The fires were widespread throughout the valley, with one in Polson, one in Irvine Flats, one along the Flathead River, and one near Arlee.
The fire in Polson was reported around 8 p.m. Monday near a grassy, wooded, and residential area in the Ridgewater Development. It caused road closures, as local law enforcement notified nearby homeowners that the blaze and high winds might prompt evacuation.
Polson Fire Department responded to the fire, which was lined and out within a few hours. A Division of Fire crew was on the scene Tuesday morning to make sure it stayed out.
CSKT firefighter James Lozeau said the crew sprayed 1,500 gallons of water on the fire in the morning to put out smoldering hotspots.
A lightning bolt hitting a metal fencepost caused the blaze, according to Polson Fire Chief Clint Cottle.
The flames were “driven very quickly by high winds at the time,” Cottle said.
The other blazes were also caused by lightning strikes, and LaFrombois said crews were out patrolling for any other fires that might have started from the storm, but were undetected. LaFrombois said it can take up to a week for a lightning-caused to be discovered.
Fortunately, people seem to be cooperating with burning restrictions, according to LaFrombois.
“It’s been a while since we have had any people-caused fires,” he said. “That helps because we don’t need people-caused ones in addition to the natural ones.”