Firefighters continue to fight Holmes Gulch fire - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Firefighters continue to fight Holmes Gulch fire

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Evacuations are in place for residents in the path of the Holmes Gulch Fire, which started Thursday afternoon south of Helena.

Firefighting efforts are still underway as the fire has burned more than 300 acres. 

Three helicopters, four large air tankers, one National Guard helicopter, and multiple engines and hand crews assisted with efforts. 

Pat McKelvey, fire information officer, said the fire started out strong. 

"It made a pretty dramatic run at first," McKelvey said. "The winds shifted a bit. It calmed down plus it got into a little area there where it was kind of sheltered."

Fire crews spent hours battling the blaze from the air by dropping retardant and water.

The air support's job was to create a ring around the fire to prevent spreading.

The air efforts allowed ground crews to enter the area and begin fighting the fire. 

Residents close to the fire who haven't been evacuated are waiting for the order. Andrea McKeever and her family are among them.

“We just have everything in our camper and we're ready to pull out if we need to evacuate," she said. "We have family and friends in town and several people reaching out to make sure we're okay."

Molly Kruckenberg's home is situated next door to where fire officials set up camp. 

“At first I wasn't terribly concerned,” she said. “It seemed like it was far enough away to not be concerned but we kind of stood out here and watched it for 20 or 30 minutes and watched it blow up and got a little more concerned after that.”

The county opened a shelter for evacuees at Helena First Assembly of God Church.

Valley Veterinarian Hospital is also hosting animals but requests that evacuees call ahead. 

Firefighters hosted a meeting Thursday evening at the Montana City Fire Hall to update residents on the progress. 

Hundreds were in attendance and asked questions about the size of the fire, when they can go home, and where they could get updates on the fire. 

The outbreak of flames has been a lesson for some near the fire but not yet evacuated. 

"I think there will be a plan now," Kruckenberg said. "We talked to some neighbors who came over and they had a box of stuff ready to go and I think that's a great idea just those valuable things if you have to get out of here right away."

At one point, a member at Thursday's meeting thanked firefighters in front of the crowd and the room erupted in applause. 

“I'm just really thankful for all the firefighters and everybody that have really hit this full bore," McKeever said. "It was amazing to watch that big DC-10 fly in and doing retardant runs. It's pretty amazing. They do a great job."

RELATED: South Hills fire update

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