Logging Equipment Starts Small Fire on Big Mountain

By Beacon Staff

Firefighters from four different agencies responded to a small wildfire on the west side of Big Mountain in Whitefish on Tuesday afternoon. The blaze, started by a piece of logging equipment, underlined the fact that fire conditions remain high across Northwest Montana.

According to Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fire program manager Jeremy Pris, the fire was reported at 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday and was about a quarter acre in size. Firefighters from the DNRC, U.S. Forest Service, Big Mountain and Whitefish fire departments responded to the fire, accompanied by three helicopters and two single engine air tankers.

As of Wednesday morning the fire had been contained but continued to burn and Pris said firefighters would likely stay on site mopping it up for the next few days.

“We feel confident that we have a good handle on it,” he said.

Although the fire was close to homes, Pris said there was never any serious threat to structures or the public.

This week, Flathead County commissioners issued Stage One fire restrictions for all private property. The restrictions include having a ring around campfires and banning fireworks. According to fire service area manager Lincoln Chute the decision was made because grass and vegetation continue to dry out.

“When you have fine fuels that will carry fire faster and the larger stuff to keep it hot, that’s when you’re set up for big fire,” Chute said, estimating that 85 percent of potential fuels in the valley had dried out.