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Montana Wildfire Update For July 12, 2021

Montana Wildfire News

Updated 07/12/21, 6:30 p.m.

The most active of three wildfires burning in southeast Montana’s Yellowstone and Musselshell counties doubled in size over the weekend. 

A Monday morning post to Inciweb reports the Peterson fire now spans roughly 4,400 acres following the weekend’s dry, windy weather and 90-degree temperatures. Fire crews are working on securing the southeast side of the Peterson fire and crews are working on the ground while aircraft assist.

Inciweb says the Peterson fire was 0 percent contained as of Monday afternoon, while the two other fires in the MY Complex were each roughly 50 percent contained.

An evacuation notice is still in effect for Queens Point Road in Musselshell County, but the county lifted evacuation notices for Harvey Road, Melstone-Custer Road and Alkali Creek Road Monday. 

According to an Inciweb update, the three fires in the MY Complex were lightning-caused and have burned nearly 28,000 acres total. 

The Northern Rockies Coordination Center says lightning has sparked 21 percent of wildfires in Montana this year.

Air Quality Reaches Unhealthy Levels In Parts Of The State

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality alert today for parts of southwestern Montana. Particulate levels throughout the day reached unhealthy levels in Missoula, Frenchtown and Hamilton. Whan air quality is unhealthy, health officials recommend all people avoid prolonged outdoor exertion. The air quality alert for Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Granite, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow counties is in effect until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Fires Force Expanded Trail Closures In The Little Belt Mountains

Trail closures have been expanded near the 2,500-acre Balsinger fire burning about 7 miles west of Neihart in the Little Belt Mountains. All National Forest Service lands immediately south of Logging Creek Campground are closed. Yesterday evening, Cascade County Disaster and Emergency Services called for the evacuation of the Belt Park west of Highway 89 due to the fire. Fire officials will host a community meeting tonight at the Neihart Community Center at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium.

Missoula County, Bitterroot National Forest Fire Danger Moves To 'Extreme'

Missoula County Monday afternoon moved its fire danger to 'Extreme', effective immediately. According to a release from the Missoula County Fire Protection Agency, 'Extreme' fire danger means:

... fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious and direct attack is rarely possible. The tri-county area including Missoula, Mineral, and Ravalli counties has already experienced 227 wildland fires since the beginning of the year, with 75% of those being human caused (which is 100% preventable!). Approximately 45 of those wildfires started this past week. Limited resource availability due to numerous fires throughout the region compounds the complex fire situation, creating intense competition and prioritization for resources—specifically crews, aircraft, and incident management teams.

...

While implementing area fire restrictions is being discussed, there are currently no fire restrictions in place in the Missoula area aside from the fact that outdoor burning by permit remains closed in Missoula County as well as in our surrounding counties. Residents and visitors are urged to visit www.MTFireInfo.orgto learn of fire restrictions that are in place throughout Montana.

Th Bitterroot National Forest also moved to 'Extreme' fire danger Monday. Officials are asking the public to be especially careful when camping and visiting the forest. 

"I don’t believe we’ve ever gone to this fire danger level this early on the [Bitterroot National] Forest,” Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said in a press release from the National Forest Monday.  "Last week, I said our high temperatures and dry fuel conditions were 'unprecedented' and 'record-setting'.  You can now add 'historic' to the 2021 fire season, which is already shaping up to be one of the hottest and driest on record."

The press releases asks those planning camping trips to follow these fire safety tips:

Pay extra attention to those items that can cause a spark, such as chains on a trailer.  Any spark has the potential to ignite a wildfire.  

Those exploring the forest and backcountry in vehicles must stay on established roads and trails and avoid driving over dry grass and brush that could be ignited by hot exhaust systems. 

Keep campfires small and completely extinguish them before leaving camp.  The best method is to douse the fire with water, stir the ashes and douse again, making sure that all ashes are cold to the touch.  It is illegal to have unattended campfires.  

Firewood cutters should operate in the cool morning hours and keep a shovel and fire extinguisher nearby.  All chainsaws must be equipped with a muffler and spark arrester.Temporary firewood cutting areas that opened on the forest back in June are also closing due to increased fire risks.  

Know before you go.  Always check with your local Ranger Station prior to your trip to get the most up-to-date information on fire danger and fire restrictions for the area. 

Open burning is currently prohibited in Ravalli County. Camp and cooking fires are still allowed.

West Lolo Complex Fires Grow To Over 1,000 Acres

Multiple lightning-caused wildfires have scorched over 1,000 acres across the Superior and Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger districts.

A Type 1 Incident Management team is now overseeing the West Lolo Complex which includes seven fires burning near St. Regis, Thompson Falls, Superior and Plains.
 
Several fires burning due south of the West Lolo Complex will now be managed as one incident on the MIssoula Ranger District. The Granite Pass Complex is made up of three fires burning on Lolo Pass

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office has issued an Evacuation warning from the Idaho border to Lolo Hot Springs. Residents are warned to be ready to immediately leave the area if an evacuation order is issued. Lolo Pass at the Montana/Idaho border has reopened to traffic after a brief closure this weekend. Drivers are asked to watch for changing fire conditions on Highway 12 and asked to not stop to take photos.

 

Get the latest Montana wildfire, fire management and air quality news on your radio, via podcast, or in your inbox.

Explore what wildfire means for the West, our planet and our way of life, with Fireline, a six-part series from Montana Public Radio and the University Of Montana College of Business.

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