FLORENCE, Mont. -The Lolo Peak Fire has burned over 50,000 acres as of April 9th, 2017. Working under the direction of the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team (NRICMT), Montana National Guard soldiers from the 443rd Signal, 1063rd Maintenance Company and the 1-163 Infantry are helping fight the fire.
So far this large fire has cost the state approximately $40 million and the end is not in sight. According to Kimberly Nelson, the public information officer with the NRICMT, the fire is expected to burn until the snow arrives later this fall. Until that happens, the fire crews will continue their efforts to control the fire and safeguard property of those who live in the area.
Speaking with Bret Lewis, a group supervisor for the NRICMT, National Guard members working with firefighters are combating the fires on several lines. They joined the current firefighters on the peak on the 8th of September.
"They are focusing on securing burned areas," said Lewis, "They are going inside the dozer line...and they are just putting out all of the hot spots using water and hand tools to dig it up".
On the other side of the fire, south of Florence, guard members are assisting law enforcement by operating traffic checkpoints; ensuring civilians do not enter evacuated zones.
Sgt. Daniel Beckers, a utilities equipment repair sergeant with the 1063rd, described his job as 'keeping the public out of the restricted areas'.
Guard members man the checkpoints in twelve-hour shifts and are activated for fifteen days before returning home.