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

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 6, 2018

The Brownstone Fire burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, August 4, 2018.

A weekend of lower temperature and higher humidity brought no substantial new wildfire starts across the state, and allowed firefighters to make a dent in existing blazes. 

Forecasters say to expect increasing fire danger and more smoke as the week progresses. 

The Garden Creek Fire continues to burn 524 acres north of Hot Springs on the Flathead Reservation

165 personnel are assigned to the fire, but C.T. Camel, fire prevention specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, says it does not threaten any structures.

Camel says conditions in the days ahead are ripe for the spread of wildfire.

"It’s gonna be hot and dry Wednesday and Thursday," he sad. "In that area it could reach triple digits."

To prepare for incoming weather and to ensure firefighter safety, Camel says crews are using explosives to create fire line through particularly rugged terrain, instead of manually digging around the perimeter of the blaze.

The fire is five percent contained.

Fire danger will move up to “extreme” tomorrow in the Flathead National Forest.

Spokesperson Janette Turk says firefighters are monitoring the remote and lightning-caused Brownstone Fire is burning about 269 acres in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Multiple fires continue to burn in the Kootenai National Forest.

Spokesperson Shawn Ray-Delmas says the Davis Fire is burning 275 acres, and is 10 percent contained, the Porcupine Fire is burning 17 acres and is 88 percent contained, and the Ten Mile Fire is burning 525 acres, and is 20 percent contained.

A public meeting for the Tenmile Fire will be held at 7 p.m. tonight at the Trego Civic Center.

The 488-acre Bacon Rind Fire continues to burn between Big Sky and West Yellowstone in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Marna Daley, spokesperson for the Guster Gallatin Forest, says officials are monitoring the fire but are not actively working on putting it out.

A community meeting will be held at the Community Protestant Church in West Yellowstone at 7 p.m. tonight.

Montana has enjoyed seasonally warm and generally light to moderate wildfire smoke conditions over the last several days. That’s about to change.

Montana’s Air Quality Meteorologist, Kristen Martin, predicts wildfire smoke is going to push back into the region this week.

“We’ve got a real strong ridge of high pressure building up," Martin says. "Like last week where we saw a lot of smoke move up from California and Oregon, we’re likely to see the same this week. On top of that we’re going to see temperatures of near or over 100 degrees across a lot of Montana, so we’re going to see fire danger increase here at home too.” 

“The atmosphere itself is going to be pretty stable so it’s not going to be able to be blown away very easily once it does get here," says Missoula City/County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield. "It’s going to potentially be something that we’re stuck with once it arrives. If it does mix-down then it will accumulate.” 

But Coefield does not expect this week’s forecast smoke to reach last summer’s intensity:

“But I would not be surprised if we see (air quality) conditions hit ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,'" she says. "If we do see air quality deteriorate, we’ll get that message out and let folks know it's time to cut back on your activity levels, get somewhere with some filtered air and try to avoid exposing yourself to too much smoke.” 

Forecasters say the ridge of high pressure that’s going to heat up Montana this week may break down by the start of next weekend.

State air quality meteorologist Kristen Martin says that can be a double-edged sword, meaning:

“That can help clear out some of the haze, but increased winds can cause red flag warnings. It’s a little too early to say if it’s going to be good news or bad news.”

Air quality experts says portable HEPA air purifiers can help improve your home’s air quality during smoky days; so can upgraded "MERV 13"-rated air filters for those with central air conditioning.

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