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Elmo Fire burns 10,000 acres, 0% contained

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ELMO — As of Sunday, July 31, a wildland fire burning along Montana Hwy. 28 has burned more than 10,923 acres northwest of Elmo. The Elmo Fire was discovered Friday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Big Draw north of Hwy. 28.

An evacuation order was issued for Chief Cliff estates (about three dozen homes) the same evening, prompting the opening of an American Red Cross shelter at the Linderman school gym in Polson. At least five families were sheltering there Saturday morning, July 30. By 1 p.m. residents were allowed to return to their homes. Pre-evacuation warnings (prepared to leave in one-hour notice) are still in place for residents south of Lake Mary Ronan Road and west of Hwy. 93.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31 the fire was 0% contained and is being managed by the Northern Rockies Team 7 as a Type 2 incident with 214 personnel on site. Fire behavior is “extreme” with gusty winds and low humidity predicted for Sunday afternoon and evening. reports west to northwest winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts of 25 to 30 mph are expected.

Lake Mary Ronan and Big Arm state parks were closed and their campers evacuated by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Big Arm State Park has since reopened.

Montana Hwy. 28 from the Hwy. 93 junction was closed and has since reopened. Travelers are urged to use caution as smoke may cause low visibility.

According to an update posted July 31 to Inciweb, a national incident information system, “engine crews from local volunteer fire departments and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes were able to hold the fire north of Hwy 28. Smoke jumpers and hotshot crews worked the west and east sides of the fire as heavy machinery constructed indirect fireline. Multiple aircraft were utilized to support ground resources with water and retardant drops. The majority of active fire was on the north/northwest end.”

“Today, firefighters will focus on areas where fireline is located directly along the fire’s edge. On-the-ground efforts will include holding fireline currently in place, constructing direct fireline where possible and scouting for future opportunities. Air resources will continue to aid firefighters on the ground with water and retardant drops.”

A red flag warning was also in place Sunday from 2 to 9 p.m. due to high temperatures and winds.

As of press time, no structures have been lost. Origins of the “human caused” fire are still under investigation.

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