No homes lost in woods fire on Columbia Falls Stage Road

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Bad Rock firefighter Dustin Toavs douses a fire off Columbia Falls Stage Road Thursday afternoon.

A host of fire companies and a state Department of Natural Resources helicopter were able to put out a fire in the woods before it burned any homes Thursday afternoon.

A grass fire at the Robert Miller residence on Columbia Falls Stage Road caught a shed on fire and quickly spread to a heavily wooded backyard to the north, burning about two acres.

When Bad Rock responded, they quickly called in other departments and the DNRC. Flames were three feet high even in the green grass. The trees, even though they didn’t have low branches, were burning 16 to 24 feet in the air, said Lincoln Chute, Flathead County Fire Services Manager and Bad Rock volunteer fireman.

Firefighters from Bad Rock, Creston, Columbia Falls and the DNRC all responded as the flames got into the trees.

“We’re working together better than we ever have,” Chute noted. “It was a good save.”

A DNRC helicopter drew water from the Flathead River and made several dumps on the blaze. There were no injuries. The shed and lawnmower inside were destroyed. The top burned out of one large tree and it snapped in two.

The fire was under control by about 4 p.m. Hot, dry conditions helped stoke the blaze, as temperatures were in the 90s and there was stiff breeze from the south.

The fire danger has been ramped up to “very high” status, meaning a fire that starts will quickly get out of control. Weyerhaeuser has banned all campfires on its lands, though they remain open to the public for other recreational uses.

Chute said the valley is getting a lot of wind, which is drying things out quickly, wet spring or not. The wet spring also made fuels grow more than usual — grass is both high and dry.

“It’s drier than most people think,” he said.

Save for a brief shower here and there, there hasn’t been any rain this month, and June was an inch below normal.

Chute said the “energy release component” — a way to measure the dryness of fuels — was similar to 2003, which was a historic fire year.

Glacier Park reported one fire start over the weekend on Quartz Ridge. A helicopter dropped water on it and crews have the small fire out.

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