The Hamilton fire raging in Montana, nicknamed the Roaring Lion Fire, skipped stage 1 evacuation warnings and went directly to stage 2 active evacuations, according to the Missoulian. The Hamilton fire began at about 2 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) today.
The fire was named after the road on which it began — Roaring Fire Road — and the name seems to describe the fire itself. The Missoulian described it as a huge plume that moved so quickly that firefighters were unable to gain control at the early stages when fires are often contained. Because of the ferocity of Roaring Lion Fire in Hamilton, firefighters were forced to back off from the inferno several times. Within an hour, the fire began to encroach on homes in the area and currently about 500 homes have been evacuated.
Montana Public Radio site is providing updated information for the public, including the map below that shows the full evacuation region. New areas are added to the Stage 1 evacuation order as Roaring Lion Fire in Hamilton continues to move. Stage 1 evacuations mean residents are put on notice that they may need to leave their homes. This gives them a chance to gather items they want to take with them. Stage 2 evacuation means that residents have to leave their homes immediately.
The Hamilton fire evacuees are being looked after. According to the Montana Public Radio site, the Red Cross is providing shelter for people forced to leave their homes. Even the animals will be taken care of.
“The Red Cross has a shelter set up for evacuees at the The River Church in Hamilton on the corner of Lewis and Cooper Lane. The Ravalli County Fairgrounds is available for livestock. Gates are open, self-serve.”
“The Ravalli County Sheriff’s office is encouraging the public to download its mobile app: Search Ravalli County Sheriff at your app store.”
Some Twitter account holders are also stepping up to offer advice to those having to evacuate. Animals may be especially vulnerable during the emergency.
Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn and Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman were interviewed by Missoulian. Hoffman said that lightning was not suspected as a cause of the fire and its intensity and speed prevent investigations into the cause. Mohn described the difficult conditions.
“We have had limited opportunities to put out spot fires near homes, but the conditions are very volatile,” Mohn said. “It’s not safe to directly attack the fire. There are several hundred structures threatened. There have been some lost, but I won’t have a count until morning.”
While original reports talked about 500 acres of land being affected by the Hamilton fire, that number has increased significantly. Within a short time, there were reports that at least 1,500 acres of land are going up in flames. However, NBC Montana puts it at 2,000 acres.
— Cowles Montana Media (@CowlesMontana) August 1, 2016
Local firefighters are not being left on their own against the Hamilton Roaring Lion Fire. NBC Montana reports that they are being assisted by helicopters, an air tanker, and bulldozers.
“Firefighters are being assisted by 5 helicopters, an air tanker, and 3 bulldozers. Firefighters are planning to work through the night to protect the around 500 homes in the evacuation zones. Those on the front lines report propane tanks exploding from the intense heat.”
Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay told the Missoulian that in the seven years he has been working in the region he has never seen a fire move so quickly.
KRTV has a detailed list of emergency procedures to be followed by evacuees and those who are put on Stage 1 evacuation warning. These include having a plan for what to take, where household members are to meet in case separated, making sure everyone has emergency phone numbers on their cell phones, making sure shelter has been ascertained for pets and livestock, staying tuned in to radio stations that are updating emergency procedures and more. Most important is that as soon as the evacuation order is issued, you do not delay but leave immediately.
The phone number for information is (406) 375-6650, the Ravalli County Emergency Operations Center.
[Image is screenshot from video]