Aug 27, 2010 12:43 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Homeowners flee Montana wildfire

Wildfires drove early morning evacuations in western Montana. A cold front brought lightning and sparked seven fires on forest service and private land.

Ravalli County authorities began knocking on doors at 3 a.m. Friday, warning residents about three miles west of Hamilton that a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest was threatening their homes.

More than 50 homes or structures in the Blodgett and Canyon Creek areas are threatened.

"All of the evacuations so far have gone very smoothly," said Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman. "We are doing our best to inform and assist residents in the affected areas. This is not an easy process for residents to be told at 3 a.m. that they must leave their homes which are currently threatened. Thankfully everyone has been very understanding and cooperative."

Meanwhile, Helena National Forest officials are hoping cooler weather and higher humidity Friday will help slow the 2,800-acre Davis Gulch fire burning on Stemple Pass northwest of Helena.

Temperatures in the high 90s and strong winds Thursday afternoon helped blow a prescribed burn out of control, forcing the evacuation of more than two dozen homes on Stemple Pass Road.

Canyon Creek Fire chief Jason Grossman said residents in six of the homes and vacation cabins along the gravel and dirt road refused to leave.



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