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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 1, 2018

Significant Wildland Fire Potential August 2018.
National Interagency Fire Center
Significant Wildland Fire Potential August 2018.

A five-acre fire started around 4 p.m. Wednesday near Alberton. Lolo National Forest spokesperson Boyd Hartwig says the fire is burning mostly grass, and that it’s not yet known if the fire is human-caused.

Hartwig says it’s currently the only active fire in the Lolo National Forest. He says several engines are on scene.

"They were able to knock it down," says Hartwig. "So things are going pretty well."

Two fires are burning on the Flathead Reservation, both emerged from a lightning storm on Friday night.

The Garden Creek Fire three miles north of Hot Springs is burning 8 acres, and the Walk In Fire is burning a quarter acre in the Mission Mountains near St. Ignatius.

CT Camel, the fire prevention specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, says crews are engaging in a “burnout,” or controlled burn, to suppress the fire near Hot Springs.

Camel says neither fire is a threat to property.

"They’re all well into the woods. No structures within miles," says Camel.

Multiple crews and helicopters have been working to contain the fires.

One new fire has started on the Kootenai National Forest, making for 22 new starts since July 28.

The Inch Fire is burning one tenth of an acre on the Rexford and Fortine districts.

Other Kootenai fires include the Davis Fire, at 215 acres, the Porcupine Fire, burning 12 acres, the Feeder Fire burning 11 acres, and the Ten-Mile Fire, burning 20 acres.
The Kootenai has issued road and trail closures in the Northwest Peak Scenic Area of the Three Rivers ranger district, Yaak Highway 92, and in the Rexford/Fortine ranger district.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Wednesday for critical fire weather across western and central Montana. That means conditions are ideal for wildland fires to start and spread quickly. The NWS says the potential for wildfire in much of western and central Montana will remain high through Friday.

Kootenai National Forest spokesperson Shawn Ray-Delmas says crews on the ground are preparing for the incoming weather.

"We’re all trying to button up some of these smaller fires anticipating that red flag warning and that cold front that’s supposed to arrive tomorrow on the Kootenai National Forest," says Ray-Delmas.

The Kootenai National Forest is now in Stage I Fire Restrictions. Building, maintaining, attending or using a campfire except within a developed recreation site or improved recreation site is prohibited.

The Highway 37 Fire near Libby has been holding steady at 70 acres over the last few days. Wednesday, firefighters were able to more fully contain the human-caused fire. It is now 70 percent contained. Officials say the continued objective is to control those fire lines while managing exposure to firefighting personnel by following necessary procedures for decontamination.

The 412-acre Bacon Rind Fire in the Custer Gallatin National Forest continues to burn. The fire and its smoke may be visible from Highway 191, but it is not threatening the road or any structures at this time. Drivers are advised to be cautious along the road and only stop in designated pullouts.

Due to hazardous, heavy, dead and down timber, and standing dead trees, fire managers are not putting firefighters on the ground at this time. They will be looking for opportunities to engage the fire if it makes its way toward Highway 191 and private inholdings to the north.

A community meeting is scheduled for Monday August 6, at 7 p.m. at the Community Protestant Church on Electric Street in West Yellowstone. Fire Managers will give a short overview and update of the Bacon Rind Fire.

The National Interagency Fire Center expects August to herald the peak month for fire activity across the West. In it’s monthly fire outlook released Wednesday, NIFC predicts above average temperatures across the West for August, with above-normal significant wildland fire potential in northwestern and central Montana.

Fire potential in southwest Montana, Yellowstone National Park and eastern Montana remains normal due to more moist conditions and the potential for wet thunderstorms. Forecasters expect a weak El Nino to form this fall that will lead to a seasonably drier and warmer than average pattern in western and central Montana through August. Eastern Montana could follow suit, or mimic North Dakota’s cooler temps with near-average precipitation through August.

September and October are expected to be drier and warmer, which is typical of El Nino falls and winters. July was drier than average in Western Montana, with some areas nearing or exceeding 30 days without wetting rainfall. Areas west of the Continental Divide saw less than half of average precipitation. Northwestern Montana was even drier, at less than 25 percent of average. Near-average temperatures have kept drought at bay, but a small pocket of moderate drought persists in north-central Montana.

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