Roaring Lion fire evacuees return home, while some must rebuild - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Roaring Lion fire evacuees return home, while some must rebuild

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Firefighters mopping up the Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton are helping residents return to their homes, although some will have to rebuild from the ground up.

The fire caused hundreds of people to evacuate in the Hamilton area.

Jan and Tom Moates had just 40 minutes from the time they learned of the fire to evacuate their home.

"It was quite scary, that's for sure. When we evacuated, we could see the fire coming down the canyon. But not too far up. And hear it. It was a huge roar. Roaring like a lion," they said.

One firefighter with 16 years of experience in the field has a similar perspective.

"Staying behind at the structure or putting yourself at risk doesn't really do you any good if you're not around to enjoy the structure. As a firefighter, it can be difficult to watch these people have to make that decision between something that they're emotionally involved with and making the right decision," Roaring Lion Fire Public Information Officer Nathan Zalewski said.

Some firefighters in the area spoke of how positive their relationships with the homeowners.

"They appreciate us being here. Most of them have wanted us to come in for coffee, or breakfast, or whatever. They're just happy for us to be here," Montana firefighter Drew Hendrickson said.

It takes a fair share of understanding between homeowners and firefighters to get through the day.

"It's a really emotional scene. Some people are really thankful and grateful. The majority of people are. Others are frustrated by the loss of property and having to start over again. So, all in all, it's just a very emotionally draining situation, not only for the residents but also the firefighters," Zalewski said.

Zalewski says the priority is to continue to contain the fire around residential areas, and to let the west side of it burn naturally into the wilderness.

The Roaring Lion Fire has burned about 8,270 acres since it was sparked several weeks ago; as of Monday, it is about 30% contained.

Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton continues to grow (VIDEOS)
1 person dies while evacuating from Roaring Lion Fire

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