Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne

Evacuations Ordered during Community Meeting


August 24, 2017

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Photo taken looking northeast from Elm Drive behind Seeley Lake Elementary School at 5:50 p.m. Monday night.

SEELEY LAKE – The shortest community meeting on record for the Rice Ridge Fire happened Monday, Aug. 28. With cell phones buzzing and the community anxiously waiting for answers, the operations chief, Seeley Lake District Ranger and Incident Commander offered very few absolutes. Most of the crowd left in less than a half hour when they were told Seeley Lake was being evacuated.

The waters of Seeley Lake were closed around just after 4 p.m. Monday. New evacuation orders were given for areas north of Cottonwood Lakes, east of Tamarack Drive and all of the Double Arrow Ranch starting at 5:30 p.m..

When Missoula County Sheriff's Office Captain Andrew Rio arrived, he told those in attendance that all of Seeley Lake east of Highway 83 was being evacuated (see map).

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Operations Chief Steve Krisman points out the location of the fire where he say it at 5:30 p.m. Monday evening. It was a half mile from the north end of the airport and a mile from Seeley Lake.

Operations Chief Steve Krisman said that crews were working between Drop Point (DP) 83 and DP 90 bringing fire with them. They had a favorable west wind and everything was going well. The wind shifted to the northwest and the fire pushed into the Morrell Creek Drainage. Firefighters dropped back to their safety zone at DP 100. The DC-10 made several drops on the head of the fire as well as other retardant planes, two helicopters and one super scooper.

Krisman estimated the fire was half mile from the north end of the airstrip and a mile from Seeley Lake at 5:30 p.m. The fire was also still north of the Seeley Creek Trailhead when he saw it from the air.

"We have some real challenges tomorrow," said Incident Commander John Thompson. "I'm cautiously optimistic. Where the fire is trying to move it is flat."

Thompson said because of the smoke they were having a hard time seeing the fire's edge. They will be working a double night shift tonight patrolling the perimeter and will know more in the morning.

Krisman added that the south end of the fire and the south east edge pushing towards Dunham Point was all holding and looking good today.


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