Montana Public Radio

Ten Acre Wildfire Burning On Kootenai National Forest

Jul 16, 2018

The Flathead Beacon is reporting that a 10 acre wildfire started on the Kootenai National Forest Sunday, 23 miles north of Libby, and is still burning Monday.

Reportedly caused by lightning, the Zulu fire doesn’t threaten any structures. At least one helicopter has been dispatched to suppress the flames.

Jessica Gardetto, spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, said many national resources are devoted to fighting fires in the Southwest, but Montana has plenty of capacity if more burns start to arise.

"We definitely make sure that we have adequate resources in every state, even if we do send some of those resources to other states."

Nationwide, 56 large fires have already burned over 1 million acres, but so far Montana hasn’t had any major fire activity. That could be changing soon.

“Things are turning here," Janette Turk, a spokesperson for the Flathead National Forest says. "You can see the grass is already curing out and with all the moisture we have a lot of fuel that had great opportunity to grow, so fine fuels when they cure out are going to carry fire.”

Turk says that the fire danger rating in the Flathead forest changed to moderate last week, and with no rain in the forecast, now is the time for residents and visitors to be especially vigilant.

“Start to think about even your evacuation plan or how you can create a defensible space around your home, what you need to clear away.”

Some small fires have already occurred this summer in Montana’s national forests.

Kathy Bushnell, with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, says they’ve already had a total of four small fires.

The Bitterroot National Forest reported at least two lightning-caused fires that firefighters extinguished last month.

Bushnell says that just because Montana’s fire season is getting a late start, that doesn’t indicate what the season will look like, and the National Interagency Fire Center is predicting northwestern Montana’s fire season to be above normal in the coming months.