A fire broke out at the base of Mount Sentinel Thursday, Aug. 20, near University Villages. The Missoula Fire Department said the fire was started by two boys, 7 and 8, with a lighter, according to Missoulian reporting.
Fire Chief Jeff Brandt said 30 men were working on controlling the fire. Brandt said the fire was contained at the Sentinel fire road.
Witnesses outside the University Village apartment complex said the fire started low on the hill and looked small and containable, before it rapidly grew and traveled upward.
“At first, it looked really small,” said Shawn Thompson, a resident of University Villages. “We thought we could go up there and put it out with just a few fire extinguishers.”
Thompson’s wife, Allison, said she was getting the mail when she heard someone yelling to call 911. When she went outside, she said she saw a man in a white shirt running toward the fire with a bucket of some sort.
“It looked like he was trying to put it out,” she said. “It started off really small, so he just ran toward it.”
Waldemar Ortiz, who was watching the scene unfold Thursday near the end of South Avenue at the base of the mountain, told the Kaimin he saw two kids running down the mountain yelling “fire.” He and some of his neighbors carried buckets of water from their apartments to the base of the Sentinel slope in case the fire traveled down.
Chris Narvaez, who lives in University Villages, came out, like many, to shouts of “fire” from outside. By the time the fire department had arrived, he said, the flames had already made significant progress up the mountain.
“This caught so quickly,” Narvaez said. “The wind, the dry grass. It just caught like that.”
UPDATE: The Missoula City Fire Department opened the "M" trail for recreation on Friday morning, according to a UM alert. The rest of the mountain remains closed due to fire mop-up operations and they ask that all people stay clear of the area of the burn.