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

Fire restrictions grow in the Bitterroot National Forest and Missoula County

A sign next to a Smokey Bear cutout that says "Fire Danger Extreme Today."
Josh Burnham
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Extreme fire danger

Extreme heat and bone-dry conditions are prompting officials to raise the fire danger and implement burning restrictions in parts of western Montana.

The Bitterroot National Forest announced it’s skipping Stage-1 fire restrictions altogether to move directly into Stage-2 restrictions starting Friday. That means fires and campfires are prohibited. Smoking is restricted outside of developed recreation sites and enclosed vehicles. Operating chainsaws and other internal combustion engines are prohibited from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The restrictions apply to all Bitterroot National Forest lands in Montana, including the Anaconda Pintler and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Areas.

Missoula County fire officials Thursday raised the local fire danger to "Extreme." That means fires will start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely.

The Missoula County Fire Protection Association says fire restrictions are being discussed, but none are currently in place.

Missoula County has already experienced 61 reported wildland fires since the beginning of the year. Approximately 80 percent of those were human caused.

Fireline probes the causes and consequences of the increasingly devastating wildfires burning in the U.S. It taps into the experience of firefighters, tribal land managers, climate scientists and more to understand how we got here and where we're going.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.