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

Montana Wildfire Update For August 3, 2020

Firefighters on the Magpie Rock fire near Dixon, MT, early August 2020.
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Division of Fire
Firefighters on the Magpie Rock fire near Dixon, MT, early August 2020.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for the 100 structures threatened by the nearly 2,300 acre Falling Star Fire burning in grass and timber northwest of Laurel. No structures have been destroyed but some have damage from the fire burning in Stillwater County in south central Montana. YPRs Kay Erickson reports that officials say the fire is human caused.

Carol Arkell is the county’s Disaster and Emergency Services Director. She said residents need to be very careful because of the fire conditions in the area.

"It is very dry out there. We’re asking people to be very careful driving in the tall weeds. This was a human caused fire so we're asking people to be very careful."

Arkell said containment lines have been established around the fire. Smoke and flames could be visible at times but they are behind the fire lines.

120 firefighters from local, state and federal agencies have been working the fire lines. Some of them could be released Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Two other fires in eastern Montana, the 650 acre Tripp Coulee Fire southwest of Jordan in Garfield County, and the 197 acre Dinasaur Dam Fire in Prairie County have been contained.

Air quality around Bozeman and Malta is rated “moderate” Monday afternoon, accordng to a state monitoring system. That means unusually sensitive people should consider limiting time spent outside.

Birney, Seeley Lake and Libby also registered moderate air quality earlier today.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality says smoke from fires in other states heavily impacted Montana’s air quality last week, but that smoke has since subsided. DEQ expects a number of active fires burning across the state to worsen air quality this week.

DEQ says protecting lungs from wildfire smoke is especially important this year to keep lungs healthy in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which causes a respiratory disease.

Face coverings used as protection against COVID-19 offer little protection from harmful particulates in wildfire smoke. DEQ advises leaving the more protective N-95 masks to frontline healthcare workers and protecting lungs by remaining indoors.

The Magpie Rock Fire southwest of Dixon is 62% contained, according to an update from the CSKT Division of Fire Monday afternoon. A total of 330 personnel are working the 3,500 acre fire. Fire officials say crews will continue to work on mop-up around the the fire's edges today. The fire isn't threatening any structures. The D-6000 road between Revais and Magpie, as well as Magpie D-5000 road are closed.

As of Monday morning Northern Rockies Coordinating Center report, the Horseshoe Fire 11 miles west of Ronan was showing minimal fire behavior and listed as 140 acres and 60% contained. It's not threatening any structures.

Over the weekend, fire officials reported a new blaze 4 miles north of Bannack State Park near Dillon. According to Montana DNRC, the Bon Accord Fire ignited on Saturday around 4 p.m, but the cause is still undetermined.

As of Monday morning, the fire was approximately 145 acres, and around 130 firefighters from state, local and federal agencies are working to contain it. Three hotshot crews and several aircraft are were on the scene Sunday trying to secure the edges of the fire ahead of winds forecast for Monday. Officials report active fire behavior, and say that the fire may be a threat to a microwave site in the area.

The Old Baldy Fire burning northeast of Sheridan in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is 75 acres and 0% contained. The lightning-caused fire first reported on Saturday is burning in subalpine fir and dead White Bark Pine. Smokejumpers, helicopters and fire personnel are working to keep the fire within the current footprint. Smoke from the Old Baldy fire is visible from Sheridan and Twin Bridges.

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