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

Wildfire Roundup For July 12, 2017

A map of the fires burning between Kalispell and Libby, updated July 12, 2017

Update 5 p.m. 07/12/17

Additional crews and fire engines have arrived to fight  five separate fires in the Highway 2 corridor.

The largest is the Lazier Creek 3 Fire, at an estimated 1,140 acres. It is now being called  30 percent contained. It's located south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road.  Today firefighters will continue to improve and construct fireline on the south and eastern portions of the fire with hand crews and heavy equipment. Helicopters will again offer aerial assistance utilizing bucket drops. Crews working on the north, west and southwest flanks of the fire will continue to hold and improve fireline. A structure group will be assessing structures in the area and begin structure.

Located north of Loon Lake off Highway 2 and west of the N. ACM Road the Rogers Mountain Fire is now 45 percent contained. Firefighters will continue laying hose on the north end of the fire to hold the fireline and begin extinguishing hot spots within the fire perimeter. Crews on the south end of the fire will continue with hand line construction.

The 12 acre NW Meadow Peak Fire is 75 percent contained. It is Located east of the N. ACM Road near Meadow Peak. Fireline has been completed and crews will begin mop up today. Nearby this fire is the 2645 Fire. It is estimated to be 3.5 acres and line construction around the perimeter is complete.

The 15 acre Grubb Fire is 100 percent contained. Located north of Pleasant Valley, resources will remain on scene to ensure mop up operations are complete.

Closures: The Thompson River Road is closed at the junction with Highway 2 south to the 17 mile bridge. The N. ACM Road remains open but please be cautious of increased traffic in the area.

Weather: As temperatures continue to warm this week relative humidity will decrease. Winds are expected to remain light and terrain driven.

The 11,174 acre July Fire near Zortman saw cooler temperatures, higher humidity, and cloud cover yesterday, reducing fire activity. Supported by aircraft, crews conducted burnout operations to strengthen control lines on the north edge of the fire, and remove unburned fuels in the interior. In other areas of the fire, firefighters continued to patrol for hotspots and extinguish them as appropriate.

9 a.m 07/12/17

Today, fire managers on scene say, weather conditions should favor another successful firefighting effort. Crews plan to continue burnouts as needed to increase containment.

On the areas of contained fireline, crews are beginning to rehab the line that was created during fire suppression activities. Fireline rehab can include projects such as installing waterbars across roads and trails, work to prevent erosion, and using heavy equipment to cover disturbed soils with vegetation.

BLM Law Enforcement is investigating the July Fire as a suspected human caused fire. 

Fire managers are asking residents and visitors to restrict use of off highway vehicles, ATVs, hiking, horseback riding, and other recreational activities in the fire area, and should remain well outside the fire perimeter. Firelines must not be used as trails for any recreational activities. Post-fire effects such as fire-weakened trees create additional hazards, and firefighters are continuing to work in the area.

In Eastern Montana, the Tongue River Complex consists of two separate fires, Lee Creek and Witten. Both fires are burning in timber, grass, and brush in rough terrain. The Witten fire is approximately 18 miles south of Lame Deer and the Lee Creek fire is approximately 30 miles south of Ashland.

No evacuations are in effect at this time.

The Blue Ridge Complex is comprised of five separate fires burning in Garfield County in Eastern Montana: The 5011 Fire, the Curry Fire, the Germaine Fire, the Russell Fire, and the Westholder Fire.

The complex is being managed by a Type 3 Incident Management Team.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire was estimated at 934 acres with zero containment.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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