SEELEY LAKE — Evacuation orders have been lifted on some Montana fires, but some residents who returned home are being warned to prepare to leave again, if needed.
The Missoula County sheriff’s office has downgraded a mandatory evacuation order for part of Seeley Lake while the Hill County sheriff lifted evacuation orders on a fire in the Bear Paw Mountains. Meanwhile, near Lolo, 1,165 structures are under an evacuation warning, but there are no evacuation orders in place.
However, those 429 homes on the east side of Montana Highway 83 along with schools and businesses remain under an evacuation warning due to a nearby wildfire. And the air quality in town remained hazardous on Wednesday morning.
The residents were evacuated on Aug. 28 due to the lightning-caused Rice Ridge Fire, which has burned 187 square miles (485 square kilometers) of forest land since it started in mid-July. The fire’s size nearly doubled between Sunday and Monday, increasing by 83 square miles (218 square kilometers).
Seeley-Swan High School students began the school year in an administrative building at a luxury resort on Tuesday. Seeley Lake Elementary School plans to start classes next Monday.
Some evacuation orders remain in effect near Lincoln, where four cabins burned over the weekend. Some residents were allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday evening, but they were asked to remain ready to leave on short notice.
Warmer weather is forecast for the rest of the week.