Boulder 2700 fire continues to burn near Polson
FINLEY POINT — The Boulder 2700 fire is on its third week of burning and estimated to have reached 2,072 acres at 46 percent containment by Monday, Aug. 16, with 31 structures lost.
Northern Rockies Incident Management Team division group supervisor Tyson Atkinson said there is still a “long way” to go before this fire is “no longer a problem.”
After being closed, U.S. Highway 35 was opened back up last week with speed limits kept to 35 mph from mile markers six to 13 to maintain public and firefighter safety as crews worked the blaze that started on July 31 in the wilderness area located eight miles east of Polson.
Areas from south of Mahood Lane and Ski Doo Creek, including Finley Point, are in the “ready stage” for evacuation in case the fire picks up again. Residents in the areas from mile marker seven to 13.5 should also be prepared to evacuate.
“Drivers on Highway 35 need to be aware of existing hazards in the fire area, including rolling rocks and debris, smoke, firefighter engines and crew vehicles, aircraft, and utility vehicles,” the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire shared.
Officials continued to say smoldering pockets of heat were occurring in the area. “Crews are digging handline to connect to existing dozer lines and roads, mopping up and patrolling the fire area. Smokejumpers worked the southeastern edge, patrolling and mopping up on the steep terrain with thick, blowdown vegetation.”
Plans were made to continue to add additional smokejumpers to the area to secure the line around the eastern end and tie into other existing lines. “Firefighters will progress with extinguishing hot spots within the fire’s perimeter, along with mop-up and patrol to achieve solid containment lines,” officials state. “In the event of fire spread, or another wildfire, crews will be able to use the lines as multiple lines of defense to protect lives, property and infrastructure on the east shore.”
The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team is coordinating fire suppression with the primary cooperating agencies working the fire now including CSKT, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake County Office of Emergency Management, the Finley Point/Yellow Bay Fire Department and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Lake County Sheriff Don Bell has said that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Atkinson said: “The steep rocky terrain made it extremely difficult to get to the fire in some locations,” although crews were able to bring the containment line to almost 50 percent.
Atkinson added that a large increase in elevation with 3,300 vertical feet made it difficult for firefighters to get to some locations. The fire was burning from Flathead Lake to the top of a mountain. Fuels in the area, Atkinson said, are “incredibly dry” and hot spots can pick up and start burning all over again, so crews are continuing to work the scene and stay alert for changes.