A wildfire burning east of Medicine Lake in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was discovered yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m. Forest officials estimate the Medicine Lake 2 Fire, located in the Pintler Ranger District, to be about 45 acres.
"They’ve got four helicopters up there right now," says Arlee Staley, a spokesperson for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest. "Three of them are dropping water on it, and they’ve dropped several loads of retardant around it."
Staley says 78 firefighters have already been assigned to the fire. A firefighter from the Phillipsburg District told her that it’s burning through four to six feet of downed and dead fall trees.
"So it’s got a huge fuel load over there."
Staley says the Medicine Lake 2 Fire, like the other two fires in the national forest, is not currently putting any homes, structures, or highways at risk. The Goldstone Fire in the Bitterroot mountains is at 125 acres and the Virginia Creek Fire is at 67 acres today. Firefighters have been working on laying hose around the perimeters of both those lightning-caused fires.
Other fires in Western Montana have been holding steady since yesterday as personnel prepare for the hottest days of summer to hit later this week.
The 524-acre Garden Creek Fire north of Hot Springs on the Flathead Reservation remains 5 percent contained.
The Brownstone Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness saw minimal activity today and remains at about 270 acres.
About 254 firefighting personnel are working the Davis Fire on the Kootenai Forest. That fire is 20 percent contained and held at 375 acres today.
On the Flathead National Forest, fire danger has moved to "Extreme."
In Yellowstone County, authorities are putting Stage 1 fire restrictions into place beginning Friday. That means campfires will be prohibited except within developed recreation sites, fire rings or improved sites. And smoking will be limited to enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites or in areas cleared of flammable materials.
Early Friday morning Stage 2 fire restrictions will go into effect across much of west central Montana. Those restrictions will prohibit the building or use of campfires. Smoking will also be limited to within vehicles or buildings, at developed recreation sites, or while stopped in areas cleared of flammable materials. The Stage 2 restrictions will also include limitations on other activities that can spark wildfires including driving off-road or using tools like torches and explosives.
Areas where those restrictions will go into effect include the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests, public lands in the city of Missoula, and parts of Missoula, Ravalli, Mineral and Sanders Counties. The restrictions go into effect after several wildfires started and spread quickly in recent weeks. High winds and three-digit temperatures expected later this week will increase the risk of accidental fire-starts.
To see the full list of restrictions and affected areas click here.