Paradise Wildfire Prompts Evacuations, Temporarily Closes Highway 200

The 12,000-acre River Road East Fire was reported Friday six miles east of Plains in Sanders County

By Beacon Staff
The River Road East Fire burning six miles east of Plains in Sanders County. Image courtesy of InciWeb

UPDATE: Highway 200 has been reopened as of 2 a.m. on Aug. 19. Areas along the highway have been impacted by the fire so drivers are asked to drive carefully and to not stop along the highway for the safety of firefighters and the public.

A new wildfire burning six miles east of Plains closed a portion of Highway 200 on Friday and prompted an evacuation order in the community of Paradise, near where the Clark Fork and Flathead rivers join.

The 11,951-acre River Road East Fire was reported on Aug. 18 at 1:30 p.m. on the Plains Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest. It exhibited extreme fire behavior in the heat and high winds, including spotting from the south side of the Clark Fork River,

Evacuations are being issued by Sanders County Sheriff’s Office for Paradise and surrounding areas. Follow the Sanders County Montana Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for updates and sign up for automated emergency alerts.

Infrared map of the River Road East fire burning near Plains. Image courtesy InciWeb.

According to the Sanders County Sheriff, Highway 200 was closed Friday for public and firefighter safety between Highway 28 North and Highway 135 South. Winds were gusting up to 30 miles per hour in the area with steep terrain. Multiple agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and other partners are on scene. An Incident Management Team is ordered and will be briefed Saturday, Aug. 19. 

Montana Red Cross is opening a shelter at the Church on the Move, 300 Clayton St., in Plains. Church members are opening doors now, and Red Cross volunteers are on the way. All Red Cross services are free.

“Paradise Montana and surrounding areas are being evacuated or placed on pre evacuation. Calls are being made to alert residents and or Deputies and Officers arriving at your door,” according to a Friday Facebook post by the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office. “If you live in the area prepare for either. More information to follow when time allows. Our Dispatchers and Deputies are incredibly busy at this time. Please be patient with our posts due to more pressing matters of reaching the residents in possible danger and making notifications. All people being evacuated are said to go to fairgrounds at this time. More info to come. Be safe and those not in the area prepare to help out your neighbors and people in need.”

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