The first major fire event of the year stormed into Missoula County on the evening of Monday, Aug. 22 when the West Riverside Fire blew up into a 2,000-acre blaze on the tinder-dry hills north of West Riverside and Milltown. By Tuesday morning, more than 120 regional firefighters and emergency personnel had assembled to fight it.
Temperatures in the 90s and gusty winds whipped the fire quickly up the flanks of Woody Mountain, leaving a surprisingly brown-not-black mosaic of lightly burned hillside. Although the fire burned remarkably close to a number of West Riverside homes and sent out embers that ignited grass along Interstate 90, as of press time the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation claimed that "the imminent threat to those homes was greatly diminished," that no structures were threatened and no evacuations ordered.
Tuesday's firefighting operations focused on the fire's eastern and western flanks: two 20-person crews built fire-lines to the west, while other crews with dozers and fire engines targeted the active eastern boundary. Water-dropping helicopters and slurry bombers arrived late in the morning.