Fire evacuees briefly allowed home to retrieve goods

HELENA (AP) — Residents of a rural subdivision who were evacuated because of a wildfire burning northwest of Helena were allowed to return home Wednesday morning to retrieve things they need that they had left behind.

Lewis and Clark County sheriff deputies escorted residents to the Flesher Acres area about 30 miles from Helena.

People in 27 of the 77 homes in the subdivision left on Tuesday. Residents of another 17 homes stayed while there was no one home at 33 properties. Sheriff Leo Dutton advised residents to heed evacuation orders and said more homes could be evacuated.

Dutton told people who attended a public meeting about the fire that authorities would not have time to give them warnings to get out if the fire suddenly gets very close to homes.

“You’ll feel it. The ground will shake and the wind is going to howl,” he said.

He said evacuations also increase safety for firefighters because they don’t have to go into raging infernos and rescue people who did not evacuate.

The fire started Monday afternoon and has burned 2 square miles of trees, dead trees and logging debris. Fire behavior analyst Mike Quisenberry said the fire is moving quickly.

Officials cannot place firefighters in front of the fire, which has had flames 100 to 200 feet high “but we can sure put people out at the homes and protect them and make sure that we have a good plan for when that fire does come to us,” said incident commander Mike Alma.

Authorities have the firefighting aircraft and machinery they need because the fire is the only major blaze burning in the area.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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