Crews work to mop up, build line around West Mullan Fire


SUPERIOR, Mont. - Crews are continue to build fire line around the entire perimeter of the West Mullan Fire burning near Superior, west of Missoula.

The West Mullan Fire has burned about 6,000 acres and is now 45 percent contained.

Monday, hotshot crews on the northwest side of the fire, near the Keystone Gulch area, worked to mop up hot spots along the fire line. They used their bare hands to feel for warm areas on the ground and then use a combination of water and hand tools to stir up and cool of the areas.

Crews on the northeast side of the fire are working to build fire line, to enclose the entire perimeter of the blaze. Fire Information Officer Gregg DeNitto said that could be complete in the next two or three days.

"We've got line over much of the fire now and if we can get this line completed up in the Wood Gulch (northeast) area and get the fuels reduced...we may have a line around all of it," said DeNitto.

DeNitto added the process is weather dependent, and hot dry conditions could cause some areas of the fire to flare up.

"There's potential for the at wind to hit some of these isolated spots out there within the fire perimeter, get those a little more active and potentially cause some flare ups and some individual tree torching," DeNitto said.

For more information on the West Mullan Fire click here.


Here's the latest update from Incident Commander Tom Heintz:

Fire Update:

Today firefighters worked to improve the fireline on the west and northwest flanks of the fire in the Keystone Creek area, and near the BPA powerline. Firefighters work in a grid pattern to locate and extinguish each individual hot spot they come across near the fireline. This work, known as mop-up, is critical to securing a ‘cold to the touch' area near the fireline.

Active fire suppression efforts continued today in the northeast corner near Wood Gulch. Firefighters worked on ‘burnout operations' to remove unburned fuel in this steep and difficult terrain. They progressed slowly to keep flames low and more manageable. Helicopters were used to drop water and retardant to keep the spread of fire to a minimum. This work will continue tomorrow.

Weather will continue to be hot and dry. The smoke will lift earlier tomorrow, allowing the fire area to heat up sooner. Winds may increase slightly in the afternoon which could increase fire activity. Some unburned islands within the fire perimeter may ignite causing additional visible smoke and flames.

A portable retardant plant has been set up at the Big Eddy fishing access site. This allows for rapid retardant support for helicopter operations.

The Incident Command Post was visited by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today. Governor Schwarzenegger addressed crews at today's morning's briefing and ate lunch with firefighters on the fireline. His film crew is following a hotshot crew this summer to work on a documentary focused on the effects of climate change in the west.

Area closures and evacuation orders are still in place. West Mullan Road is closed to the public west of Sunflower Lane. It is open to residents only. Flat Creek Road is closed outside the Superior city limits. East Mullan Road is open to everyone. Big Eddy Fishing Access Site, Keystone Gulch and Pardee Road remain closed. The Incident Commander and Sheriff are working cooperatively to develop a plan for the evacuees to return to their properties

Closures: Iron Mountain Trail 242 (known as Cascade Falls Trail) from above the falls to the junction with Forest Service Road 97 and National Forest System Trail 51(known as Ninemile Divide Trail). The Clark Fork River remains closed to the public from Big Eddy Fishing access to Sloway Campground. Vista Trail north of Superior is closed to public access.

Special Concerns:

New fire starts! Fully extinguish campfires and be cautious with combustion engines. Helicopter work continues in the area and the public is asked to stay clear of all aerial activities. About 42 residences are now threatened by the fire; no structures have been damaged.

Visibility! Travel on area roads continues to be hazardous, especially in the mornings between Superior and St. Regis due to the inversion created by fire conditions. Watch for rollout material on roads below the burned area.

More Information: Visit Inciweb at, email or call fire information 406-649-9032.