Firefighters were able to keep the Sawtooth Fire from spreading to the east towards residences over the weekend, and the Stage 2 evacuation order was downgraded to a Stage 1 alert on Sunday morning.
As of Monday, the lightning-caused fire, which was detected on August 30 a few miles southwest of Hamilton, had burned about 4800 acres and was 30% contained.
Monday brought a change to the regional weather pattern with smoke inversions clearing earlier and a return to warmer and dryer conditions. Firefighters are continuing to scout contingency lines between Canyon Creek and Blodgett Creek on the north side of the fire and to build direct handline upstream along Sawtooth Creek. The dozer lines and hard work of patrolling crews kept the eastern edge of the fire dormant for several days. Crews will continue to improve those lines in that area.
Although the Stage 2 evacuation orders have been lifted, a Stage 1 Evacuation warning remains in effect. Residents should stay alert to changes in fire conditions and weather. Movement of large trailers or other large vehicles on the narrow roads of areas nearest to the fireline is discouraged in order to maintain quick access for firefighters and equipment. Residents will continue to see activity from helicopters as they work to contain and control hotspots. Pockets of fuel within the perimeter may flare up as the days heat up.
As of Monday, there are approximately 422 personnel assigned, including 11 crews, 13 engines, 7 water tenders, 1 dozer, and 5 helicopters.
There will no longer be a nightshift patrolling the residential areas overnight with the change in the evacuation level back to the larger Stage 1 area. Crews will continue to camp out near the fire on the northern perimeter. This allows quicker access to critical areas as they work to contain any spread of the fire into the Barley Creek drainage.
Fire managers were expected to fly over the fire on Monday, concentrating on management options in Barley Creek and Sawtooth Creek to limit fire spread and to scout the fire as it moves to the west deeper into the wilderness.
Sawtooth Creek Trail #123, Roaring Lion Trail 124, Ward Mountain Trail #208, and Canyon Creek Trail #525 remain closed due to fire activity. Blodgett Campground is also closed.
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The Forest Service also issued a notice that the Sawtooth Fire and the Mustang Fire have not burned together. On Saturday, officials on the Mustang Fire reported that the fire had burned into the Hamilton Fire, and that was interpreted by some to mean the fire near Hamilton (i.e. the Sawtooth Fire). However, “Hamilton” is the name of another fire in the southern Bitterroot Valley. The geographically referenced name caused the confusion.