A red flag warning in western Montana had firefighters around the Missoula area worried about a big spread Monday evening, Fire Information Officer Mike Cole on the Lolo Peak Fire says the winds helped create a big plume of smoke.

"It got pretty active yesterday and we had some spotting to the north, and once that got on the slope there, it started picking up steam and ran all the way to the edge of Lantern Ridge my guess is that the fire moved about a half mile the other night, a half a mile to the north. It also grew to the south, about a quarter to a half mile in that direction.

The fire spread, of course, led to a growth in overall acreage.

"It grew to over 1,000, we are at a 1,090 acres now, so it's been chunking along, growing about 300 acres a day the last couple of days.

Meanwhile to the east of Missoula the Goat Creek Fire, Sliderock fire, and Little Hogback fire also saw growth. Fire information Officer Ted Pettis explains.

The weather conditions were certainly ripe for a big expansion, but it's been pretty typical of the other days. The Little Hogback and Goat Creek Fire have been about three to four hundred or five hundred acres a day that they've been increasing and that's typical, but the winds must have aligned a little bit differently [on Monday], it was actually less than what we were expecting."

Though they are fairly close together, the three fires east of Missoula have not merged, but they will be referred to as the Sapphire Complex for accounting reasons. Altogether, the three fires have chewed through over 5,400 acres.

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