Sawtooth Fire Expands to 1,300 Acres – Evacuation Warnings
The Sawtooth Forest Fire is now estimated at 1,300 acres and has grown to the east and northeast, pushed by 30-50 mph winds Sunday, September 9.
The Stage 1 Evacuation warning was issued Sunday afternoon, and individual homes are being notified by Ravalli County Sheriff's officers, according to Sheriff Chris Hoffman.
The Forest Service has identified and strengthened a contingency fireline on the face of Downing Mountain west of Hamilton. Engines and crews will be lined out along that line Monday to provide structure protection, should it be needed.
The Westside Road and those roads to the west of it - from Roaring Lion Road to Blodgett Camp Road - will be closed to all but local resident traffic to help firefighters prepare for another windy day on the Sawtooth Fire.
Those living in that area are under a Stage 1 Evacuation Warning, meaning they should be ready to evacuate in a hurry. Stage 2 is the actual evacuation. The Sheriff's Office will conduct that process, if needed.
At this time, though, some things can be done by those in the Evacuation warning zone. For instance, if there's someone in your home that is an invalid or sick, make arrangements to move them now. Also, if you are concerned about livestock, the Ravalli County Fairgrounds has stalls and areas to house those animals. You will need to care for them - water, feed, etc. - but at least they have a place to stay outside the evacuation zone. (see photo) The Bitterroot Humane Society is working with people to find housing for smaller animals like dogs and cats.
The Blodgett Creek campground and trail have been added to the list of closed trails on the Bitteroot National Forest. Also closed are the Sawtooth Creek Trail, the Roaring Lion Trail and the Canyon Creek Trail.
An infrared flight over the fire last night showed that the fire has moved farther east on Sawtooth Creek, and has spotted into Barley Basin in the Canyon Creek drainage, and onto the North Fork of Owings Creek on Downing Mountain.
Yesterday, smoke from fires in Idaho - particularly the 18,000 acre McGuire Fire near Dixie and the 16,000 acre Sheep Fire north of Riggins - added to the Moose Creek and Powell Complex smoke and prevented Sawtooth managers from getting an accurate idea of the growth of the Bitterroot Valley fire until the overnight IR flight.
A "Red Flag" forecast of 30-50 mph winds today has officials concerned at all the fires in the area. For instance, the 282,000 Mustang Fire is now about a mile from US 93 north of North Fork, Idaho. The road remains open, but there is heavy smoke and lots of fire traffic.
Air quality at the Ravalli County Courthouse monitor in Hamilton showed "Unhealthy" for hourly particulate county and "Very Unhealthy" for long exposure.