Firefighters Gain Ground on 80-Acre Lakeside Blaze

Fire crews construct containment lines around Lakeside fire, turn attention to smaller fires

By Justin Franz & Associated Press
Flathead Hotshots work the Bierney Creek Fire near Lakeside on Aug. 24, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Latest     

– Bierney Creek Fire holds at 80 acres

– Containment line has been built around 70 percent of the blaze but it remains 0 percent contained

– Residents are being told that evacuations are still possible if fire grows

LAKESIDE – Fire crews have engulfed the 80-acre Bierney Creek Fire in a “stranglehold” and are now attacking smaller fires outside the main blaze while keeping local residents on alert.

About 75 structures are within a half-mile of the fire but no mandatory evacuations have been ordered. Residents in the Bierney Creek area in the forested hills above Lakeside have been asked to prepare for evacuation in case the wildfire gains ground in the coming days. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has set up a checkpoint on the Bierney Creek Road and only residents are allowed past that point.

The community along the shores of Flathead Lake has been on alert since the wildfire popped up Monday afternoon and quickly chewed up 80 acres. Fire crews have quickly confined the flames, making considerable progress while scrambling to douse the flames before high winds are projected to arrive this weekend.

As of Wednesday morning, firefighters had constructed containment lines around most of the fire. Minimal fire activity was reported overnight and crews began dousing small fires within the fire’s perimeter. The fire has burned a large area within the Bierney Creek drainage, but several areas of thick underbrush remain unscathed, and officials are concerned about the fuel catching fire and sending embers beyond the containment line.

Shawn Borgen, supervisor of the Flathead Interagency Hotshots, said the cloud cover and cooler temperatures were giving crews the upper hand in battling the blaze.

“We went after this fire with extreme aggression because it was so close to so many homes,” he said. “This fire had a lot of growth potential.”

About 100 personnel are fighting the fire, including the local hotshot crew and a 20-person crew, along with two bulldozers, nine engines and two helicopters.

The fire is still considered 0 percent contained despite substantial containment lines.

“We have a cold front coming (this weekend) that will bring wind with it so it’s important that we get this thing knocked down,” Borgen said.

High winds and low humidity fanned the fire, which was first reported at about 4 p.m. Monday. Firefighters from local volunteer fire departments, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Flathead National Forest quickly hit the fire from the ground and from the air.

A Type 3 Incident Management team assumed command of the fire on Tuesday morning.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Weather Slows Copper King Fire; Evacuations Remain in Effect

Cooler weather has slowed Montana’s largest wildfire, though 45 homes are still evacuated and 130 others are on alert.

The Copper King Fire northeast of Thompson Falls had burned 33 square miles as of Wednesday morning.

Fire officials say crews have made progress in securing containment lines and protecting structures. The weather was cooperating Wednesday with lighter winds and higher relative humidity.

The Copper King Fire is 15 percent contained. Fire officials do not expect full containment until the end of October.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.