New Wildfire in the Benchmark Area Forces Evacuations
Early afternoon on August 25, 2015 a fire was reported on the Lewis & Clark National Forest's Rocky Mountain District burning approximately 1 mile west of the north end of the Benchmark Airstrip, west of Augusta. District personnel located and initial attacked the fire on the ground but had to withdraw for safety reasons when the fire activity heated up and made several runs in the crown. Suppression tactics shifted to using aerial resources with two light helicopters using bucket drops and four aerial tankers dropping fire retardant with the assistance of a lead plane and an air attack plane controlling aerial operations.
Under the jurisdiction of the Lewis and Clark County Sherriff's Department, a mandatory evacuation of the upper portion of the Benchmark Road corridor began in the late afternoon. The area being evacuated includes recreational cabins, a resort, Forest Service campgrounds, heavily used trailheads, a Ranger District administrative site, and a Forest Service rental cabin. To provide for public safety and security of the evacuated structures, a road block is in place on the Benchmark Road to prevent entry into the evacuated area.
As of 9:00pm last evening, the fire is estimated at 25 - 35 acres. Suppression efforts will continue today and the evacuation remains in effect with no estimate of when this order may be lifted.