-Copper King Fire has burned 6,900 acres east of Thompson Falls
-Homes along the Little Thompson River were evacuated early Monday
-Emergency shelter has been established at Thompson Falls High School
-Type 1 Incident Management Team will assume control of the fire tonight
-NWS issues Red Flag Warning until 9 p.m.
Updated: Aug. 22, 11:45 a.m.
A wildfire in Sanders County doubled in size Sunday evening, forcing the evacuation of homes early this morning along the Little Thompson River and sending smoke into the Flathead Valley.
Fueled by warm temperatures and wind, the Copper King Fire grew from 3,400 acres to more than 6,900 acres by nightfall Sunday, according to Public Information Officer Glenda Scott. The fire continued to grow overnight and made a significant run to the east early Monday morning north of Highway 200.
The early morning run forced the evacuation of homes along the Little Thompson River. Residents along the main Thompson River corridor, including the Loneman Creek, Buffalo Bill, Hideaway Lane, Weeksville and Munson Creek areas have been given a pre-evacuation notice and are being told to be ready to leave a moments notice.
An emergency shelter has been set up at the Thompson Falls High School.
Scott said it is likely the fire has burned more than 6,900 acres but that officials won’t have an exact estimate until later today.
The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning until 9 p.m. Monday and fire officials expect another day of high fire activity. Smoke and ash from the fire have been drifting into the Flathead Valley since Sunday evening.
Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management team are expected to assume control of the fire Monday evening and a public meeting is being held at the Thompson Falls Community Center at 7 p.m.
Wind gusts of 35 to 45 miles per hour are expected to fuel rapid-fire growth this afternoon to the northeast and east. Firefighters will spend Monday preparing for the evening winds by reinforcing fire lines and setting up structure protection.
As of Monday morning, the fire was 30 percent contained. There are currently 317 personnel assigned to the fire, along with three Type 1 crews, five Type 2 crews, 14 engines, seven water tenders and seven helicopters.
“We want to keep the lines we have,” Scott said.
Forest Road No. 56 is currently closed from the Copper King community to mile marker 17. Road No. 5587 (Spring Creek) and Forest Trails No. 345 (Todd Creek), No. 368 (Big Hole Lookout), No. 370 (Spring Creek), No. 372 (Munson Creek), No. 445 (Koo-Koo-Sint) and No.1268 (Bay State) are all closed. The Copper King and Clark Memorial campgrounds are also closed.
Fire officials said additional road and area closures are likely as the fire grows.
While the Flathead Valley has had numerous small fires in recent weeks, Flathead County Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute said firefighters have been able to get ahold of the burns quickly. However, the local fire danger remains high.
“We’re holding our own here, but this wind is a big concern,” Chute said Monday morning. “We’ve been able to catch the fires we’ve had but that could change with these winds.”
Fires have also erupted in the Spokane region, forcing evacuations and scorching several homes. No injuries have been reported, but several hundred residents have fled the northeast area of Spokane as over 4,000 acres burn.
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