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Residents flee wildfire along Flathead Lake

by Daily Inter Lake
| August 1, 2021 7:00 AM

Residents on Flathead Lake east of Polson were ordered to evacuate early Sunday morning as a wildfire in the Mission Mountains crossed Montana 35 and burned multiple structures.

According to the Finley Point-Yellow Bay Fire Department, shifting winds pushed the Boulder 2700 Fire west toward the lake and south from mile marker 10 where it crossed the highway. The fire was estimated at 1,150 acres on Sunday afternoon.

The evacuation order affects all of Finley Point and the Skidoo Lane area, and homes from mile marker 6 to marker 12.

Power was shut off as a precaution from mile marker 6 to Yellow Bay, and in the Finley Point area. The fire department warned that evacuations are possible for residents south of mile marker 6.

Residents who already left the area were told to put a sock on the door knob and a pillow case over the mailbox so emergency responders know the home is vacated.

According to C.T. Camel, information officer for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' Division of Fire, initial estimations put the number of structures lost in the fire "in the teens, up to 20."

He said structures were destroyed on both sides of the highway between mile markers 9 and 10.

"The downdraft winds are what got them," Camel said. "Then it started spotting downhill and across the highway."

According to Camel, people living in the fire's path safely escaped, and no injuries were reported,

High temperatures had contributed to the fire’s overnight expansion across an area of almost two square miles, Camel said.

“It was 90 degrees at midnight,” Camel said. “We still had day-like fire behavior all through the night.”

He said fire crews worked through the night, and saved a few homes.

A heavy air attack was underway Sunday as air resources hit the blaze with retardant and water. Fire managers said a Northern Rockies Type 2 team was assigned to the fire.

The B-2700 Road off of Highway 35 was closed Saturday to reduce the risk to firefighters and the public. Boaters on Flathead Lake were also advised to stay out of the area.

THE RED Cross established a shelter at Linderman Elementary School, 312 Fourth Ave. E. in Polson.

The Polson Chamber of Commerce delivered food from its Cherry Festival pancake breakfast to help feed those at the school who were displaced by the fire.

Anyone affected by the fire in need of assistance is asked to message the chamber directly on Facebook or Instagram, or send a text to 406-544-2162.

Fire officials first reported the Boulder 2700 Fire at roughly 200 acres Saturday morning. It was burning in steep terrain with heavy downed fuels east of Flathead Lake and about 8 miles east of Polson.

Evacuations were initially ordered Saturday for homes below the fire along Montana 35.

The fire is believed to be human-caused and is under investigation, according to the CSKT's Division of Fire.

A FLASH flood watch was in place for Lake, Sanders, Mineral and Missoula counties Sunday as significant thunderstorms were expected to develop over the region.

Gusty winds over 40 mph were possible ahead of the surge of monsoonal moisture, followed by heavy rain-producing thunderstorms with rain rates of 1-2 inches per hour, the National Weather Service in Missoula warned.

Backcountry roads could become blocked by downed trees and flood debris. Ponding was also possible in some areas.