Lolo Peak firefighters mopping up, reclaiming


LOLO, Mont., - Cool, wet weather is tamping down fire behavior at the Lolo Peak fire.

Fire managers are assessing for opportunities to suppress the fire south of Lolo without risk to firefighters.

The fire has burned more than 53,000 acres and is 69% contained.

There may still be open flames visible in spots in the fire's interior. But there's been a lot of progress.

The Type 1 Incident Management Team that has managed this fire for most of its duration is now briefing a Type 2 team.

The Type 2 team will be managing a fire that has become less complex.

On Monday an excavator was repairing dozer lines that were built as fire line south west of Lolo.

The line was strung along a ski run on private land where the former Bitterroot Ski Resort was proposed.

Heavy equipment operator T.J., French is doing suppression work.

"There are berms on each side of the dozer line where they tried to keep the fire from crossing the line," he said, "so I'm putting all the dirt back to reclaim it."

The work prevents washouts. The area will be reseeded.

"In a year it will be back to its natural state." said French. "You won't be able to tell there was ever a a line here."

Crews are doing mop up in areas where rain hasn't penetrated under the tree canopy.

The fires are out in this stretch south of Lolo but it's shocking to see the amount of fire damage.

Everywhere you look there are blackened trees where the fire had crowned and scores of other trees that turned brown from the intense heat.

On the proposed ski run you get a view of the entire canyon that had been on fire, where winds had driven embers across the ski run.

Fire information officer Dan McKeague said the ski run containment line was unsuccessful because the fire spotted into trees to the south.

But a change in weather helped.

"We were successful in putting a hand line prior to the fire," said McKeague, prior to the fire reaching an old fire scar farther south."

On Monday you could see the mountains from Highway 93 and from the ski run you got a panoramic view of the valley. But it was hazy.

"There's still smoke along these mountains that's from active but very much internal burning on the fire," said McKeague.

He said with a wetter forecast the Lolo Peak appears to be winding down. But he said there's still a lot of work to be done with mop up and suppression repair.