Montana Wildfire Update For August 19, 2020
The National Weather Service recorded at least 1,700 lighting strikes across the Northern Rockies last night and early this morning. Over 200 of them hit a hot and parched western Montana where fire danger is increasing.
The powerful thunderstorms trundled from Oregon into Idaho last night, eventually making their way into western Montana early this morning. Those awake early enough to see them were treated to an impressive show.
"We did have a number of stations report anywhere from a quarter inch to a half an inch of rainfall," says Alex Lukinbeal, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula.
Some Montana fire crews Wednesday chased several new reports of potential wildfire activity. All were at one half-acre or less.
Lolo National Forest crews responded to three new, small lightning fires west of St. Regis, and one human-caused wildfire near Haugan.
The Bitterroot National Forest picked up at least five reported lightning-sparked fires.
The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Southwestern Land office in Missoula reports one new fire start. The Westgate fire near Seeley Lake was less than one-tenth of an acre Wednesday afternoon.
DNRC spokeswoman Kristin Mortenson says human caused wildfires easily outnumber those created by Mother Nature. Mortenson says 60 percent of fires this season in that west-central Montana region have been started by people.
In the Lemhi Pass area, the lightning-caused Bear Creek Fire is reported as 7,500 acres in size and 10 percent contained. Officials say fire activity was quiet Tuesday. Today, crews and air resources continue to construct and improve indirect lines and conduct burn out operations. Fire managers are expecting thunderstorms with the possibility of 30-mph winds Wednesday. Closures remain in effect.
The National Weather Service in Great Falls warns that smoke from California will soon make it's way to western and central Montana.
Smoke and haze will be increasing across Montana, especially later tonight through Thursday, as steering winds aloft bring smoke from ongoing fires in California northeast into the region. #MTwx pic.twitter.com/psOxNaU4As— NWS Great Falls (@NWSGreatFalls) August 19, 2020
Get the latest Montana wildfire, fire management and air quality news on your radio, via podcast, or in your inbox.