Crews battle fire near Lower Thompson Lake

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A wildlife located near where Sanders, Flathead and Lincoln counties meet was human-caused, according to fire officials.

Crews are battling the Tornilla Creek wildfire near Lower Thompson Lake, just south of U.S. 2.

According to Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation’s fire information officer Ali Ulwelling, the exact cause is not yet known, but a fire investigator is expected to look into it Friday.

Fire officials are reminding people to avoid driving on dry grass and a water truck was being used to spray the grass at the edges of U.S. 2 between Kila and farther west Thursday.

After the initial run Tuesday evening and activity Wednesday, the fire has had minimal growth and is holding at 52 acres. It is 60% contained.

The fire was detected by a DNRC detection flight at about 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. At that time, it was 5 to 10 acres in size. Interagency firefighters with engines and heavy equipment responded and worked to control the fire as it grew to 35 acres, and additional resources, including aircraft, were ordered for the next day.

Three Type 2 helicopters from the DNRC and Kootenai National Forest and one Type 1 Kmax dropped water on the fire Wednesday.

With the support of aviation resources, firefighters and equipment were able to build fireline around the entire fire. A Type 2 and a Type 1 crew arrived on the fire Thursday morning. There are a total of 75 people working on the fire and a spike camp is being set up in Big Prairie.

Firefighters plan to continue working hot spots, install more hose around the perimeter of the fire, and use water to work in from the perimeter.

Warm and dry conditions are expected over the next few days. Temperatures will be close to 90 again mid-week and no precipitation is expected.

There are no structures threatened, no evacuations in place, and no closures at this time.

A handful of wildfires have popped in the region over the last few days, including one off Bowdish Road between Kalispell and Whitefish, one near Olney, one near Emery Creek off the Highline Loop Road, and another in Star Meadow. All were controlled quickly, officials said.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or

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