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

Montana Wildfire Update For August 25, 2020

Montana Wildfire News

Smoke from California wildfires continues blanketing Montana and degrading its air quality. By mid-afternoon Tuesday 10 cities reported air quality that was "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups."

The north-central Montana community of Malta slipped into the "Unhealthy" category at about 9 a.m., meaning all children and adults were advised to limit all outdoor exertion. Malta’s Air quality improved only slightly by late afternoon.

The Missoula City-County Health Department says the smoke may soon start to shift south. Upper level air will likely start coming from Oregon where there are significantly fewer fires than in California. If the health department’s prediction holds up, that means significantly cleaner air is possible by Thursday.

The 2,000-acre Cinnabar Fire is responsible for the temporary closure of the entire Welcome Creek Wilderness on western Montana’s Lolo National Forest. The lightning-caused fire is burning through heavy dead and downed timber, beetle-killed timber about 10 miles east of Stevensville and 15 miles south of I-90 in the Rock Creek drainage. Fire officials post on InciWeb the fire is making short runs up steep slopes, group torching, and backing downslope. No structures or infrastructure are threatened at this time. Due to the complexity of the incident and location, a Type 2 Incident Command Team has been ordered and expected to arrive Wednesday.

Firefighters meanwhile are responding to the Long Gulch Fire, a new fire in Mineral County, 5 miles northeast of St. Regis. The 8-acre fire was initially reported Monday evening. It’s burning in an active logging unit within the 7 Mag timber sale. A timber processor and several log decks have been damaged. The Helena Hot Shot crew has arrived and will relieve initial attack teams. The fire is zero-percent contained, but not growing. No structures are threatened, and no closures are in place at this time. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Bradley Creek Fire has grown to nearly 1,900 acres with estimated 20 percent containment.

Crews led by a Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation County Assist Team spent Tuesday building and improving fire line, monitoring for hot spots and mopping up the fire’s interior.

No closures or evacuations are in place at this time, though fire Incident Commander David Hamilton advises caution when driving near the fire perimeter along Highway 287. Livestock were lost to the fire Sunday and a high-voltage powerline sustained some damage. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The new Daily Fire is burning 1,600 acres on the Custer National Forest about 10 miles east of Ashland, according to the Mile City Interagency Dispatch Center. U.S. Forest Service resources are on scene, according to a morning update Tuesday. The Powder River County Sheriff’s Office asks people to stay away from the East Fork Otter Creek/Wilbur Creek/ East Fork Beaver Creek area north of Highway 212.

The human-caused Sage Fire burning 10 miles north of Oswego on the Fort Peck Reservation grew to 5,640 acres by Tuesday morning. The fire was discovered Monday and is actively burning and making runs in short grass. The daily report from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center says Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crews expect to contain the fire Wednesday.

The Hill Fire 25 miles south of Glasgow held at 3,275 acres overnight and is estimated to be 68 percent contained.

Musselshell County Disaster and Emergency Services declared the Shipp Road Fire contained at 147 acres Tuesday. The fire burning on private land was discovered Monday.

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Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
(406) 243-4065
Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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