Air Tankers Drop Retardant to Protect Red Lodge Ski Resort

By Beacon Staff

RED LODGE – Heavy airtankers dropped fire retardant along a ridge near the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort on Sunday to protect the resort from an advancing wildfire.

Resort employees stood by, ready to operate the resort’s snowmaking equipment to send cascades of water against the fast-moving Cascade fire, said Forest Service fire information officer Jeff Gildehaus.

Fire officials ordered more evacuations Sunday as the fire west of Red Lodge continued to move steadily to the east, sending out smoke, ash and embers.

The fire was reported at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in the West Fork of Rock Creek.

The fire on the Custer National Forest had grown to more than 2,500 acres by Sunday evening and burned five summer homes and an outhouse in the historic Camp Senia area, Gildehaus said.

He said a mapping error overestimated the number of acres burned at 3,580.

“The fire is actively burning. It’s putting out a really big column of smoke,” Gildehaus said.

The fire was zero percent contained.

Although the Cascade fire was several miles away, the Grizzly Peaks subdivision about three miles west of Red Lodge was evacuated as a precaution.

“It’s a dense subdivision in the pine trees. It’s going to take a long time to get people out of there. … It’s a one-way-in, one-way-out subdivision,” Gildehaus said.

The subdivision has 40 to 50 homes, he said.

Darrell Krum, Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Carbon County, said the county has ordered mandatory evacuations west of the intersection of Ski Run Road and West Fork Road about three miles west of Red Lodge.

Those evacuations cover another 40 to 50 homes in addition to the ones in the Grizzly Peaks subdivision, Krum said.

The Red Cross has established a shelter in the gym at Roosevelt Elementary School in Red Lodge for any evacuees who need a place to stay, Krum said.

Although the fire is burning eastward, Krum said fire bosses told local officials Sunday that the chances of it reaching Red Lodge were low.

“It’s always a possibility,” Krum said.

A top-level national incident management team was sent in to take command of the fire late Sunday afternoon, two 20-person ground crews were expected and a heavy helicopter has been requested, said the Forest Service’s Gildehaus.

Krum said the fire camp would be established at the Carbon County Fairgrounds in Red Lodge.