The National Weather Service predicted that strong winds would pummel the Beeskove Fire burning in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area on Saturday, and those predictions were so accurate that crews were pulled off the fire for their own safety late Saturday afternoon.

Fire Information Officer Tod McKay said on Sunday that crews returned to the fire lines at about 7:00 a.m. with additional Hot Shot crews from around the country to handle the steep, rocky terrain.

“Saturday at about 5:00 p.m. firefighters reported sustained winds across that fire of 30 to 35 miles per hour,” said McKay, on loan from the Bitterroot National Forest. “The decision was made at about 5:30 p.m. to actually pull firefighters off of the line because it had become just too dangerous for them to continue trying to contain the fire. We also ground all the air craft, the five helicopters that were doing all the bucket work because the winds were so strong it just wasn’t effective to continue dropping water on the fire.”

McKay said fortune smiled somewhat in that the growth of the fire was headed away from the Missoula area.

“It has grown south and east, and it’s up to 115 acres up the Rattlesnake drainage, so it has about tripled in size,” he said. “One firefighter fell and injured his leg and required stitches due to the extremely difficult terrain. In fact, in the last two days, just Friday and Saturday, the helicopters had dumped 396,898 gallons of water with bucket drops on that fire to keep it from growing, but the winds just wouldn’t cooperate.”

McKay said the weather forecast for the next several days calls for comparatively cooler temperatures, and even more important, less wind.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we can’t put this fire out just by dumping water on it,” he said. “It buys us time and it slows the growth down, but we need firefighters on the ground to be able to dig that line around the fire, so we’ll just take it day by day and see what happens.”

It is not known how much the fire has cost to fight so far, but 126 firefighters are currently on the scene, according to Inciweb.

The fire was lightning caused.


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