Montana Public Radio


High fire danger sign.
U.S. Forest Service

The fire danger rating was moved to "high" Monday for the Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park and the whole of Flathead County. The announcement came from an interagency group of local, state and federal officials. The interagency press release said the move to high fire danger comes as the area is dry enough to ignite easily and has high potential for fire spread.

An air tanker drops retardant on the Buffalo Fire, buring in Powder River County, MT, July 23, 2020.
BLM Montana/Dakotas

A large wildfire burning southwest of Broadus in Powder River County in southeast Montana tripled in size overnight. The Buffalo Fire is now 15,000 acres and is threatening 12 structures.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Firefighters extinguished more than two dozen small fires on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeast Montana that were believed to be started by an arsonist, officials said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs said the first the fires was reported Wednesday evening north of Crow Agency. About 17 fires were ignited between Crow Agency and Hardin, and 10 more were ignited south of Crow Agency.

The Clear Creek Fire burning on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Perma, MT, July 21, 2020.
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Division of Fire

Fire crews, 9 engines and 14 overhead units are trying to control the 5,000 acre Buffalo Fire burning southwest of Broadus in Powder River County. It took less than four hours yesterday for that fire to explode from 200 acres to 2,500. The fire is so explosive it created its own supercell with its own smoke plume and lightning.

The Clear Creek Fire near Perma, MT, July 21, 2020.
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Division of Fire

A 20-man crew along with air-support is attacking the 345 acre Clear Creek Fire on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Perma, MT. The fire is 60 percent contained. The incident is still under investigation, but is believed to have been started by rock quarry equipment. No structures are threatened. Weather in the area is expected to be hot and windy with gusts up to 20 miles per hour in the afternoon.

As the warm, dry conditions of mid-July settle over Montana, fire danger has increased, especially in the west.

Missoula County moved the fire danger to high on Monday, which means all outdoor burning permits for the county have been cancelled for the season.

Several other counties have fire restrictions in place until rescinded to to reduce the chance of out of control fires.

Smoke from the Rice Ridge Fire hangs over Seeley Lake, MT, August 2017.

As the number of coronavirus cases in Montana rise, public health officials and researchers say smoke from the upcoming wildfire season could make people more susceptible to catching the virus, and make patient outcomes much more deadly.

Lightning, warm temperatures and dry conditions are keeping firefighters busy in the region. YPR’s Kay Erickson has the details.

Map of the Gold Butterfly Project vicinity.
Bitterroot National Forest

Environmental groups are suing the Bitterroot National Forest over a proposed project that calls for about 5,600 acres of commercial logging.  The Gold Butterfly project would take place on about 7,300 acres. It includes non-commercial thinning and about 4,800 acres of prescribed burns.

A National Forest Service fire danger sign.
Courtesy: Bitterroot National Forest

Missoula’s recent warm and dry conditions have prompted officials to push local fire danger from low to moderate. According to the Missoula County Fire Protection Association that means outdoor debris burning season closes June 7.