LOLO — The Granite Pass Complex fire started over a week ago and has burned 1,700 acres with 0% containment in the area of Lolo Pass.
California Incident Management Team (CAIIMT) 15 has been sent to fight the fire in the Lolo National Forest. Their strategy? A full suppression strategy by surrounding the fire while keeping everyone safe.
“So right now we're looking at a strategy to where we can put ourselves in a better position to box this fire in with minimal damage to structures to life to property and impact to Highway 12,” said CAIIMT 15 Public Information Officer Tom Stokesberry.
But how did California firefighters end up in Montana? There is a national mutual aid system which means different regions can call or help when wildfires break out.
"And when you look at the roster and see okay who's available nationally. Well, it's gonna only be teams right now that were out of Region Five which is California. And our team was on call,” explained CAIIMT 15 Deputy Incident Commander Tom Clemo.
CAIIMT 15 is a Type 2 team, so they respond to Type 2 wildfires. But it's all based on a carefully calculated system.
“There is actually an analysis that is done to reveal what the complexity level is going to be, and then that's the team that gets ordered. It's also important that we look downstream and assume or try to think of what might happen, and put the right team in the right spot for that." - CAIIMT 15 Deputy Incident Commander Tom Clemo.
Based on the geographical difficult location of the fire, commerce impacted -- such as business and homes -- and the importance of Highway 12, the Granite Pass Complex fire was classified as a Type 2 fire, one step below a Type 1, which is the greatest and more complex type of fire to fight.
Heading into the week, the fire crew is prepared to battle the weather as a Red Flag warning has been issued.
“Not only our incident management team strapped resources are strapped and we're at a national preparedness level of five nationwide, which means usually extreme fire behavior, a lot of fires and a lack of resources and that's kind of like what we're dealing with here right now." - CAIIMT 15 Public Information Officer Tom Stokesberry.
The team has set up camp at Lolo School on US Highway 93 and information signs have been posted along Highway 12 for people heading toward Lolo Pass.