POLSON — A wildfire that exploded over the weekend destroyed several structures and forced evacuations along Montana Highway 35 in the Finley Point area along the southeast corner of Flathead Lake. MTN reporter Jill Valley got a firsthand look at the Boulder 2700 fire from the lake near Polson.
We were able to take a boat near the fire scene around noon Sunday with the permission of the Lake County Sheriff‘s Office and being very careful to avoid all firefighting efforts.
From Polson Bay you don’t see much but as we approached we suddenly saw the stretch of smoke and fire on the mountainside.
Every now and then a column of smoke would come up but what struck us was that the area above Highway 35 had burned so hot Saturday night that the mountainside looked just like ash with some birch trees stuck in between.
Two helicopters were working diligently to scoop water out of the lake -- a smaller helicopter and a Chinook. Fire trucks could also be seen along Highway 35 patrolling the area to make sure everybody was safe and to keep an eye on the fire spread.
There were areas where the fire had gone over the highway burning toward the lake. There did appear to be some structure damage here and there but it’s hard to speculate on what we were seeing.
We also had debris and ash coming down on the boat and in the lake itself but none of it was on fire.
When we talk about cabins, a lot of these are actually houses and some will be getting the bad news that their property has burned.
Sheriff Don Bell told MTN News that firefighters and deputies were able to rescue two pets from the fire scene; a dog that they saved from a burning dock and a cat that had been stuck up on some rocks and then in a tree.
As of Sunday, the fire has burned an estimated 1,150 acres. The cause of the fire is still being investigated. At this point, there are no reports of any serious injuries. Mark Clary of the Lake County Office of Emergency Management Director told CSKT they believe 15 to 20 structures were destroyed in the area of mile marker 9 on both sides of Montana Highway 35.