1 person dies while evacuating from Roaring Lion Fire

Posted at 10:25 PM, Aug 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 00:25:58-04

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office reports that one person died during the evacuation of homes from the Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on Sunday.

The elderly man reportedly suffered a heart attack; we do not yet know the man’s name.

At least 14 homes have been destroyed by the fire. 

The latest mapping shows that fire has burned at least 3,505 acres; an estimated 500 homes remain on evacuation orders or alert. 

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday evening that at least 14 homes have been destroyed so far, and have also declared a state of emergency in response to the fire.

The Sheriff’s Office is working to contact the homeowners; Sheriff Chris Hoffman says that residents of the area can call the Ravalli County
Emergency Operations Center at 375-6650 for information regarding their property.

Hoffman added that the rapid evacuation made it extremely difficult to match properties and owners. 

The Sheriff’s Office is still not allowing people into the evacuated area, as there is still active fire and the area is expected to remain extremely dangerous for the next several days.

Fire officials say that a flyover at 3 a.m. Monday showed that there were still numerous hot spots burning, including along the ridge-top of Goat Mountain on the north side.

A trio of Hot Shot crews worked overnight on protecting structures in the area and some preliminary firelines have been built in the area. Firefighters are focusing their efforts on the southern flank of the fire.

Fire officials noted that a helicopter was ordered in Sunday when the fire was at just one acre, but the pilot was only able to make one drop before the winds kicked up. 

Click here to see time-lapse videos of the fire.

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office has announced there will be a public information meeting on the Roaring Lion Fire Monday night at 7 p.m. at the First Interstate Building at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds in Hamilton.

Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said, "Fire everywhere. Smoke. Both sides of Roaring Lion were on fire, there was fire up on the mountain; down below. It happened so fast there was no time to get resources on it. I know they had hand crews and air attack on it right away, but it exploded."

He was among the first to respond to the fire as it erupted in his neighborhood, quickly realizing there was no way to stop it, and that the best bet was getting people out of the firestorm’s path.

"We saw torching, we saw crown fire right away. Then we saw the wind shifting back and forth which really kind of created chaos on that fire front. It was pretty amazing what was floating down to the highway as far as tree branches coming all the way down to the highway from that fire."

But amidst that chaos, Burrows also saw determination. 

"What I witnessed was a community coming together last night. We had friends and family all coming together to get each other out of there and help do what they could."

A GoFundMe account has been created by Nick Larkin to collect donations; Larkin says that all money donated will be sent to the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department to help purchase supplies for evacuees at their discretion: food, blankets, pet supplies, etc. 

Click here if you would like to donate.