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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Missoula Fire No Longer Threatens Power Lines

Danny Dauterive

A large fire that ignited yesterday in Missoula's Miller Creek drainage no longer presents a threat to Northwestern Energy high voltage power lines, communication towers on Dean Stone Mountain or local homes.

An overheated chainsaw muffler sparked the Lost Mine Loop fire. Miller Creek Road remains closed to all but fire crews and local traffic.The fire is now estimated to encompass 153 acres and is 75 percent contained.

The fire traveled in a northeast direction, originating near the nine thousand block of Miller Creek Road. The burning occurred mostly in grassy terrain with portions of timber.

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation's Southwestern Land Office spokesman Jordan Koppen says firefighters from Missoula Rural Fire and DNRC are being joined by two 20-person crews from Grangeville and Deerlodge.

Two heavy air tankers from Helena are on standby at the Missoula International Airport to provide aid if needed.

Koppen says conditions are deceptively dry in western Montana despite the fact that it's autumn.

"Definitely things have been cold in the morning. When that happens things freeze out and then plants and shrubs die. From there we have warmer weather; like yesterday I think it was in the lower 80s which is pretty warm for this time of year. Things dry out and then they cure and that's where they get into trouble - dead, dried out means highly flammable and that what helped this fire take off pretty easily."

Fire danger in Missoula county is listed at "Very High". Burning season remains closed until further notice.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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