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Aug 20, 2013 11:11 AM by MTN News - Missoula

Lolo Creek Complex fire grows to 5,000 acres

LOLO - The Lolo Creek Complex fire burning west of Lolo along U.S. Highway 12 continues its relentless march, with new figures showing about 5,000 acres have fallen victim to the flames.

Cindy Super with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation says the blaze, made up of the former Schoolhouse Fire and the West Fork II Fire grew rapidly on Monday as extreme fire danger and Red Flag conditions hampered initial attack efforts as the flames were fanned by winds gusting between 40 mph and 50 mph.

Super says firefighters will still be working on structure protection on Tuesday as well as setting up a safe anchor point so that crews can begin to contain the fire.

Firefighters conducted a burnout overnight along the Elk Meadows Road to remove unburned fuel along the possible fuel break. Meanwhile, a national, Type 1 Incident Management Team is headed to the Lolo Creek Complex fire and will be briefed on Tuesday.

However, Super cautions that the predicted weather over the next several days will continue to challenge firefighters as heavy smoke will impact air operations while the potential for the fire to continue to grow is very high.

Officials have confirmed that some structures along U.S. Highway 12 have been lost, including some homes, with Super saying more information about how many structures have been lost should be available later on Tuesday.

Voluntary evacuations remain in place for residents along Bear Creek Road and down to Sleeman Creek, and an evacuation shelter is in place at Christ the King Church on Gerald Street in Missoula. The Missoula County Fairgrounds is also providing a home for large livestock and horses that have had to be evacuated.

A hotline for residents has been set up by Missoula County Disaster & Emergency Services, with information available be calling (406) 258.4636.

Super added that no injuries have been reported as a result of the lightning sparked blaze that sparked to life on Sunday.

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