HELENA — Friday estimates show the Matt Staff Fire has burned around 1,550 acres, about 350 fewer acres than initial estimates on Thursday night. 150 fire personnel are working the fire.
The fire continued to smolder Friday. As temperatures rose Friday afternoon the fire began throwing off a column of smoke that could be seen from downtown Helena.
According to Lewis and Clark Co. Sheriff Leo Dutton, no homes were damaged or destroyed, but there is the possibility that an outbuilding was lost to the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation but appears to have started very close to Highway 12 near Spokane Creek Rd. on the southeastern edge of Lewis and Clark County.
Dutton added that firefighters have faced complications Friday, including unauthorized drone flights that have forced them to suspend aerial firefighting operations. The sheriff warned that they are investigating and anyone caught flying a drone could be cited.
The fire started near Matt Staff Rd, east of East Helena around 2:30 p.m. Thursday. It quickly spread to the north and east prompting evacuations on the other side of the Spokane Hills along the west shore of Canyon Ferry.
On Friday, the southern portion of W. Shore Dr. remains under evacuation. Authorities conducted about 24 evacuations on Thursday night as the fire spread.
A public meeting is planned for 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5 at Tri-Lakes Fire Station 3, near the Glass Slipper on Spokane Creek Road.
The Matt Staff Fire is reminiscent of the 2000 Bucksnort Fire. The Bucksnort Fire, part of the Canyon Ferry Complex, burned around 14,500 acres and damaged or destroyed around 40 structures in and around the Spokane Hills. A 2009 BLM report found fire suppression and remediation costs topped $18 million. It was started when hot coals were dumped into a ditch.
Former Tri-Lakes Fire Chief Bob Drake told MTN at his retirement in 2020 that the Bucksnort Fire helped improve the mutual aid response between multiple agencies.