UPDATE: Saturday Fires near the Wye May Have Been Caused by Train
UPDATE: Sunday 7:45am, July 24, 2022
Mel Holtz, Public Information Officer with the Frenchtown Fire District, has provided an updated on the fires near the Wye just outside of Missoula, explaining that the combined fires burned approximately 345 acres.
Holtz said the cause of the fires is believed to be a malfunction that occurred when a train passed through the area.
Holtz said a night crew worked on mopping up the fires.
It is not known if any structures were damaged by the fires.
Once again, Holtz reminded western Montana residents that the fine fuels such as grasses and weeds have completely dried out and are in ripe conditions for any spark to turn them into another wildland fire. Fire personnel urge all who may be in recreation areas to be especially aware of the dry conditions, make sure all campfires are completely extinguished and not to drive any vehicles in such a manner that hot exhaust might also spark a fire.
Our news team spoke late Saturday afternoon with Mel Holtz, Public Information Officer with the Frenchtown Fire District, who said multiple small fires have broken out near the Wye between Missoula and Frenchtown.
“We got a call just after 5:00 p.m. (on Saturday) for wildland fires in the Wye area,” said Holtz. “There appears to be several fire starts from just from the Inderland area down to Tucker Lane, so some area fires that have spread out there. One is estimated to be at about 10 acres. Another one's estimated to be at four acres, and I'm still getting information coming in from our crews to kind of get a handle on it.”
Holtz said multiple agencies are responding to the fires that may be threatening some homes in the area.
“Multiple agencies have responded to this,” he said. We requested mutual aid from Missoula Rural Fire as well as East Missoula. The Missoula County Sheriff's office is on scene, as well as DNRC (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) and Forest Service resources. We are getting help from a couple of helicopters, and there are some additional what we call SEATS or small engine air tankers that we've requested being dispatched out of Ronan, and Arlee Fire, as well is helping out.”
Holtz said the sheriff’s office is in the process of notifying residents about the fires, but he does not know if any evacuations are imminent.
“The sheriff's office I believe has notified several people that are within the vicinity of those fires, letting them know what's going on, but I don’t have a great handle on if they pulled any evacuations,” he said. “I just talked to our duty officer out there and I know they're working on trying to get a hold of these and get around to them. But to my understanding evacuations have not been pulled but notifications have been made.”
Holtz said the hot dry weather has created the perfect conditions for wildfire activity throughout western Montana.
“We've had really hot weather here with very little precipitation,” he said. “We've seen fuels like these dry grasses growing and growing, which create a lot of fuel out there. So with these hot days and more hot days ahead, that fuel is going to quickly dry out and it's just going to be ripe conditions for wildland fires. So, anybody out recreating, please use caution. Our prime wildland season was slightly delayed with some of the moisture we had, but this is the time where we start to get busy.”
Missoula and Frenchtown residents are asked to avoid the areas involved so that firefighting vehicles and personnel can access the fires.