Firefighters in western Montana are monitoring for signs of wildfire after nearly 300 lightning strikes were detected by the Lolo National Forest over the last 24 hours. Parts of parched eastern Montana, meanwhile, are bracing for severe thunderstorms this evening and an elevated risk of fires.
As temperatures climbed into the upper 80s and mid 90s Thursday, scattered thunderstorms rumbled across parts of west central and southwest Montana.
Another round of storms this morning brought gusty winds and lots of lighting, raising concerns of new wildfire starts.
The Lolo National Forest Facebook page says the lightning strikes were accompanied by less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation.
No significant wildfires have been reported so far, but firefighters are watching for signs of holdovers, or small fires that may be quietly smoldering in the brush.
Fire danger is generally listed as “moderate” across most of west central and northwest Montana, but climbs to “high” in southwest Montana. Hot temperatures persist in eastern Montana where fire danger generally ranges from “high” to “very high.”
The National Weather Service has posted a Red Flag warning of increased fire risk through midnight for Northern Valley and Northern Phillips counties, The Little Rockies, The Lower Missouri River Breaks, Southern Petroleum and Southern Garfield counties.
Forecasters say dry thunderstorms in the eastern region could ignite dry fuels, while gusty winds could quickly spread the flames.
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.