Public Meeting Addresses Concern, Attack of Fire - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Public Meeting Addresses Concern, Attack of Fire

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LOLO - Tuesday evening fire officials and emergency personnel held a public meeting at Lolo School to tell residents about the growing fire and what it might mean for their homes.

One question on the minds of some residents along Highway 12, is how the fire grew from a smoke spot miles away on Sunday to an 8,000 thousand acre fire that's threatening their homes?

Terance Perry, a resident of Sleeman Gulch, saw initial attack units stationed at the bottom of the West Fork II Fire Sunday, when he says it still seemed small and far away. By Monday, the fire had exploded and he was packing for evacuation.

"I'm disappointed it got this big, it really seemed like something that could be contained," Perry said.

But veteran fire chief and Incident Commander Bob Fry, says crew safety and availability of limited resources challenge response time.

"For us we're at the end of the fire season so we're affected by things like college kids going back to school and we're used to dealing with that," Fry said. "It can be hard when we have such limited resources."

Fry says with giant fires burning in Idaho, California and Oregon, many federal resources are sent there before Montana sees its fire season around mid-August.

"It makes it difficult any time a fire is in your backyard it stresses folks in your backyard," Fry said.  "I understand that its common to feel that way, I'd feel that way if there was a fire burning in my backyard."

Fires officials assigned to fires in Gallatin and Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forests, were competing for resources beyond initial attack this weekend, but even as they become available Fry says there is a lot to consider before putting crews on a fire.

"When the fire is moving, the worst it's very difficult to get in and work in front of that and those are pilots. They are people I always remind people that firefighters whether they're in the air or on the ground they're people, a lot of kids a lot of folks that have families we've got to take care of their safety."

But as structures along Highway 12 are destroyed, residents remain concerned.

"I'm honestly a little frustrated."

Fire officials say they launched an initial attack on this complex Sunday, but the fire changes too quickly and it was no longer safe for crews to be on fire lines. That's when the fire exploded in size Monday.

Officials recommend any residents up Highway 12 continue mitigating fire danger around their house by watering lawns and fields, soaking their houses with hoses or sprinklers and clearing any dry fuels from their homes.

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