UPDATE – Emergency Declared – Stage One Evacuation Notices Underway Near Observation Point Fire
Ravalli County Commissioners declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, due to the rapid growth of the Observation Point fire.
Commissioner Greg Chilcotte said he hasn't experience a fire moving this quickly so early in the season in his time on the commission.
"We thought it was just going to skulk around on the rock face of the Observation Point, but with the winds and the temperatures, its blown up," Chilcotte said. "In order for us to do evacuation protocols and procedures, we had to declare a state of emergency. Right now, we're in stage one, which is notification. This is where we advise them to consider what to take with them should they have to evacuate. They can also start pre-evacuating animals and stock, that sort of thing."
Ravalli County sheriff's deputies and other emergency personnel have been contacting families in the vicinity of the Observation Point fire and advising them to prepare for evacuation.
Undersheriff Steve Holton said Ravalli County officials are experienced in wildfire preparation.
"Last night, that Observation Point fire took a dangerous run to the east and north," Holton said. "With the cooperation of the incident command team on the fire and the Hamilton Fire District, we did a lot of Stage One notifications. We didn't actually evacuate any houses, but it's a fairly large area, west of Highway 93 all the way from Lost Horse Road on the south to just about the Gold Creek area on the north end."
Holton said the officials were able to contact a great number of homes and properties in a short amount of time.
"We haven't counted all the residences we hit, but I think it's well over 200," he said. "Again, they're just Stage One notifications at this point, just a warning.What we're really trying to do is give people ample warning, so if they have livestock, pets or medical conditions, should they be evacuated, they'd be ready."
Holton said most of the people they contacted were already preparing to evacuate, if it become necessary.
The Observation Point fire doubled in size overnight, with high winds and lightning in the forecast.