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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 15, 2016

Smoke becomes more visible from the distant Roaring Lion Fire on August 14, 2016
Smoke becomes more visible from the distant Roaring Lion Fire on August 14, 2016

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Last Update: 3:30 p.m. 08/15/16

In Yellowstone, a new fire was detected Saturday, 5 miles northeast of Tower Junction. The Buffalo Fire is now at 97 acres, and is visible from the Lamar Valley.

The lightning-caused Maple Fire continued to grow over the weekend, topping 1,100 acres. The fire is 8 miles northeast of West Yellowstone, burning in an area charred by the 1988 fires. It's forced closures on portions of the Gneiss Creek trail.

The Fawn Fire 11 miles west of Mammoth, remains at 936 acres. Some campsites in the area are closed due to the fire. Parts of the Fawn Pass and Bighorn Pass trails are also closed.

Fire Managers have merged the Buffalo fire with the Fawn and Maple fires into a single complex — called the Buffalo Complex — to better allocate resources between the three. All three are being allowed to burn for resource benefits. Firefighters are monitoring the fires.

Update: 10:21 a.m. 08/15/16

Officials from the Copper King Fire will be holding a public meeting at 6:00 tonight at the Thompson Falls Community Center to answer questions about the ongoing fire.

Currently 1,793 acres, the Copper King Fire is eight miles outside of Thompson Falls and one mile north of Highway 200. The fire is 20 percent contained with 203 personnel dispatched.

The rapid 200-acre increase in the fire is due to yesterday’s warmer temperatures as well as a firing technique intended to improve the fire line along the ACM road. This resulted in heightened activity downhill into the Highway 200 corridor and the Buckeye Canyon area.

Firefighting crews continue to work with landowners and those who may have structures affected by the fire. Nightshift crews have been one way of protecting those structures around the clock, and are scheduled to continue over the next couple of days.

Today, crews will assess the effectiveness of yesterday’s firing techniques and find other ways to implement defensive strategies for the area.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 90’s, with minimal humidity and winds.

The 8,729 acre Roaring Lion Fire five miles southwest of Hamilton has seen an expected increase in fire activity over the last few days, largely due to green fuel drying out and burning. Officials say that this activity was anticipated and doesn't threaten the current 70 percent containment. Although smoke has visibly increased, the fire has not exceeded protective lines and no flames have been seen on the eastern ridge.

Crews are prioritizing mopping up hot spots on the western edge and eliminating the chance of new burns erupting around the established perimeter. Suppression work around homes in the area is part of daily operations.

Yesterday, crews released an air attack while maintaining aerial resources for any upcoming tactics. Today’s high temperatures will increase fire activity and smoke from newly dried fuel. Smoke will likely be visible until a season-ending event, like substantial rain or winter weather.

Area closures and the permit system for residential roads remains the same. Trailhead closures include Camas Creek, Coyote Coulee, Roaring Lion, Sawtooth and Ward Mountain. The closure also includes the Coyote Coulee trail system and #59 up the North Fork of Lost Horse Creek. Observation Point road is also closed.

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