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Crew battling Tamarack Fire makes narrow escape out of fire and flames

Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue found themselves caught in the middle of a fast moving spot fire while battling the Tamarack Fire.

Posted: Jul 26, 2021 11:16 AM


A firefighter who was reported missing near Montana's border with Idaho has been found safe, authorities said.

The firefighter was working the Granite Pass Complex Fire when he went missing on Sunday, a news release from the official information site for the fire said.

He was later located and is uninjured, officials said.

"The individual has been found, uninjured and safe. Thank you to all those who assisted and to our dedicated Search and Rescue Volunteers. We are thankful for the positive outcome!!" the Missoula County Sheriff's Office said in a message on its Facebook page.

The Granite Pass Complex Fire is among several burning in the US, mostly in the West. At least 86 active large wildfires have charred nearly 1.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This year, 36,467 fires have burned a total of 2,770,454 acres across the United States, the NIFC said.

An ongoing drought coupled with high temperatures continues to fuel flames in much of the West, threatening homes, prompting evacuations and destroying structures.

But some relief could be on the way. About 3 million people are under excessive heat warnings in parts of Montana, Oregon, and Idaho, but most warnings will end by Tuesday.

Monsoon rains in the region are helping bring the heat back down to the seasonal average for much of the West and there are chances for rainfall in the forecast for some drought-stricken areas.

More than 22,000 deployed to battle fires

More than 22,000 firefighters and other personnel have been deployed to battle the flames throughout the US, NIFC said.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office issued an evacuation warning from Martin Creek on Highway 12 to the Idaho border as wildfires continue to burn in the area.

"Residents and visitors in the area should stay vigilant of the current situation and be ready to immediately leave the area if an evacuation ORDER is issued. If you are traveling along Highway 12 please do not stop," the Missoula County Sheriff's Office said last week.

The dangerous fire conditions have already injured five federal firefighters who were working in Montana last week.

The firefighters were injured in the Devils Creek Fire when "a sudden wind shift blew the wildfire back over their position as they were constructing a defensive fire line on the perimeter," a news release issued by the Bureau of Land Management said Friday.

"Numerous wind shifts and rapid rates of spread resulted in erratic fire behavior as thunderstorms and associated cells were passing over the area when the incident occurred," the release said.

The bureau said the firefighters were evacuated and medically evaluated to "determine the extent of their injuries" following the incident on July 22 in Garfield County. An update on their conditions was not available.

Three more wildfires -- the Trail Creek Fire, the Alder Fire and the Christensen Fire -- are burning in Montana near the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, according the Forest Service Facebook page.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge is the largest of the national forests in Montana, covering 3.35 million acres within eight southwest Montana counties.

A hotshot crew has been deployed to the Trail Creek Fire to help prevent the fire from growing towards the east. The fire has grown to 27,797 acres since starting on July 8, the Inciweb incident map shows.

Fire activity picked up at the Alder Fire on Saturday because of high winds and low humidity, growing to 7,281 acres with 10% containment, according to Inciweb.

The Christensen Fire saw at least two miles of growth to the east but was buffered to the south by a fire scar, the page said. According to Inciweb, the blaze is 1,274 acres.

Severe fire conditions fueling Bootleg Fire

As of Monday morning, 541,336 acres have burned in Oregon due to seven large wildfires, with the Bootleg Fire -- the state's current largest wildfire -- accounting for 408,248 acres charred since it sparked July 6.

The flames are 46% contained, according to Inciweb.

"Severe fire weather conditions and extremely dry fuels continue to challenge us on this fire," said Joe Hessel, incident commander for the Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team on Sunday. He noted the progress that has been made "is due to the continuous, vigilant work by our crews."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday she is worried high temperatures will continue to contribute to the spread of the Bootleg Fire.

"It's incredibly important with climate change, that we get into these forests and start doing the fitting and harvest and prescriptive burning, so that we can create healthier landscapes that are more resilient, for wildfire," Brown said.

She signed legislation last week that would arm the state with tools and resources to make communities "more adaptive" to wildfires. The legislation includes resources for adequate firefighting tools and prescriptive and mitigation efforts.

Dixie Fire exhibiting extreme fire behavior

In Northern California, there are more than 5,000 firefighting personnel battling the Dixie Fire, which has burned 192,849 acres and is 21% contained, according to Inciweb.

The fire has destroyed 16 structures and is threatening 10,000 more as it continues to spread, Cal Fire's incident page showed.

In an update Sunday, the Inciweb page noted the fire "experienced significant growth and very challenging fire conditions."

"Extreme fire behavior is expected again today. Atmospheric conditions are less stable and therefore large pyrocumulus clouds are expected to develop over the fire increasing the potential for spot fires and rapid fire growth," the update said.

Another fire nearby, the Fly Fire, has burned an additional 4,300 acres and is 5% contained, according to Incwieb.

More than 5,000 fire personnel are working on the two fires, the website said.

The fires have threatened several communities and burned areas that will be reviewed by damage assessment teams once the conditions become safer, according to Inciweb.

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