HELENA — New mapping on Friday of the Matt Staff Fire east of Helena indicates it has burned about 1,550 acres, about 350 fewer acres than initial estimates on Thursday night.
According to Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton, no homes have been damaged or destroyed, and there have been no reported injuries, but there is a possibility that an outbuilding was lost to the fire.
Dutton noted that firefighters 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 in the vicinity could be cited.
On Friday, the southern portion of W. Shore Drive remains under evacuation. Authorities conducted about 24 evacuations on Thursday night as the fire spread.
The fire started near Matt Staff Road east of East Helena at around 2:30 p.m. on 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.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but appears to have started very close to Highway 12 near Spokane Creek Road on the southeastern edge of Lewis & Clark County.
A public meeting is planned for 7:00 p.m. on Friday, August 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 several agencies.
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