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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 22, 2016

A snag burning in the Blue Lake Fire southwest of Ennis, MT.
Paul Roose - Inciweb
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A snag burning in the Blue Lake Fire southwest of Ennis, MT.

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Last update 5:35  p.m., 07/22/16

Blue Lake Fire

Fire Information Officer Peri Suenram said, "It was an exciting day on the fire today from the standpoint of how hard and furiously the wind blew. Firefighters made good progress, though, we’re happy to say, on the south and east flanks, but the fire did grow to the north."

Suenram did not have an updated estimate of the size of the fire yet, it was being called 314 acres this morning. Fire officials have also not yet offered an estimate of how much of the fire is contained. Suenram said high winds did not hamper aircraft fighting the fire, which included at least four helicopters and multiple planes. She said more ground crews arrived today, including the Helena Hotshots.

Cedar Fire

Western Montana had a welcome break from fire activity, but the return of fire weather means flare-ups on two fires burning in the region this week.

The Cedar Fire has grown to 186 acres since being detected July 17. That fire is located just across the Idaho border south of the Powell Ranger Station in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Forest officials have ordered the entire Cedar Ridge trail closed due to fire activity.

The fire is torching trees and making uphill runs in mature spruce and subalpine fir forest. Officials expect it to grow until it reaches natural barriers and areas of recent burns.

Firefighters plan to monitor the fire for now, according to press release from the Nez Perce National Forest.

"Due to its relative remote location and its close proximity to previous years' fires, long-term management of the fire is planned.  The fire will continue to be closely monitored by ground and aerial resources to protect identified values at risk in accordance with resource management objectives in the Forest Plan.  Potential values at risk include the Elk Summit Guard Station, Kooskooskia trailhead, Graves Peak Lookout, Hoodoo Creek bridge and Bridge Creek bridge."

Information about the fire will be posted at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, Elk Summit, Kooskooskia trailhead, the junction of the Forest Service road 358 and Forest Service road 360 and on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests website.

Map showing the location of the Cedar Fire in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.
Credit Nez Perce National Forest
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Map showing the location of the Cedar Fire in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.

Blue Lake Fire - 4pm Update Fri 7/22

Ten miles southwest of Ennis, the lightning-caused Blue Lake Fire has grown to 314 acres.

Timbered areas with heavy slash left over from logging operations fueled active crowning and spotting yesterday. The fire is also making runs through grass and sagebrush.

Tankers made retardant drops on the eastern edge of the fire yesterday. Today, crews continue to work on building direct line on the east and southeast side of the fire.

Four engines, one helicopter, two air tankers, and two hand crews are currently working the fire, with more of the same on order.

As of 10:20 on Friday morning, no evacuations of areas surrounding the Blue Lake Fire are planned. The are no closures currently in effect for the area.

The forecast calls for high temperature and high winds. And if that's not enough, reports of bears in the area mean firefighters had to be trained in the use of bear spray.

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