Mountain lion kittens rescued from fire
The plume of smoke from a fire that blew up on the Three Mile Game Refuge nine miles east of Florence last Friday, August 29 could easily be seen from across the valley. It was first reported about 3 p.m. and numerous resources responded including the Lolo Hotshot crew and fire engines from Stevensville, Florence, Three Mile and the U.S. Forest Service. Multiple aircraft were also used including three helicopters and two single engine air tankers which dropped water and retardant to keep the fire from spreading.
Burning in grass and timber, the fire grew quickly to about 40 acres in size. But the quick response by fire crews made it possible to hold the fire in check overnight.
“The bucket work by helicopters and the retardant drops were very effective in suppressing fire activity,” stated Forest Service Public Affairs officer Tod McKay in a press release.
The three helicopters working on the Three Mile fire dumped an estimated 20,000 gallons of water on the fire Saturday. The two single engine air tankers dumped more than 6,000 gallons of fire retardant to keep the fire from spreading.
Firefighting was helped by cooler temperatures on Sunday and Monday and more humid conditions. The fire reached a total of 48 acres before being declared contained at 9:00 am Monday morning. The Lolo Hot Shot crew was released as were most of the aircraft. Mop up efforts have begun, but an engine from the Stevensville Fire Department is on patrol to watch for hot spots that might flare up again.
Bitterroot National Forest firefighters rescued a pair of mountain lion cubs Friday afternoon during initial attack on the fire. The kittens, just a few weeks old, were taking shelter under a burning log. Firefighters called in a helicopter bucket drop to douse the log, and the kittens, although wet from the 600 gallons of water, were rescued by firefighters. Wardens with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks took custody of the cubs and they are currently being held at the agency’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Helena.