Copper King Fire Burns 700 Acres Near Thompson Falls

Type II management team will be brought in to fight blaze

By Justin Franz
The Copper King Fire burns near Thompson Falls on July 31, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Updated: Aug. 1, 3 p.m.

Firefighters across western Montana are bracing for a busy day after two fires exploded over the weekend near Thompson Falls and Hamilton.

While the massive Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton is attracting most of the resources and attention, fire managers are also worried about the 700-acre Copper King Fire just east of Thompson Falls that was first reported late Sunday.

Lolo National Forest spokesperson John Hamilton said 33 firefighters were working the fire Monday morning and a Type II incident management team was en-route to take over on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A public meeting about the fire will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the Thompson Falls Community Center.

Hamilton said the Clark Memorial and Copper King campgrounds have been closed due to the fire. Forest Service Road 9991 on the east side of the Thompson River is closed from the junction with Montana Highway 56 and mile marker 17. Forest Service Road 5587 and forest trails 345 (Todd Creek), 368 (Big Hole Lookout), 370 (Spring Creek), 372 (Munson Creek), 445 (Kookoosint) and 1268 (Bay State) are also closed.

Highway 200 remains open but local officials are asking that people do no stop in the area of the fire.

Fire danger on the Lolo National Forest is currently high and the arrival of a cold front tomorrow could produce more strong winds.

Hamilton said there are 15 to 20 structures in the area of the fire and people who live there are being kept up-to-date on what’s happening. However, the fire appears to be burning away from any homes in the area.

Further south, near Hamilton, the Roaring Lion Fire has scorched more than 3,500 acres, forcing the evacuation of approximately 500 homes in the Bitterroot Valley. A Type I incident management team has been ordered to manage the blaze and they are expected to arrive on Tuesday. At least five helicopters are working the fire and three hotshot crews have been dispatched to the area.

Flathead County Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute said the fire danger in Northwest Montana has been elevated to high. He urged all residents to be vigilant and take steps to prepare their homes for fire, including cutting high grass and clearing out gutters.

“When you see what’s happening near Thompson Falls and in the Bitterroot it’s a reminder that people here need to prepare for a wild land fire. We don’t know when it’s going to be but if people prepare their homes by cutting their grass and cleaning out their gutters it will help a lot,” he said. “If people don’t clean things up around their house we may not be able to save it in a fast moving fire.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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