Dangerous fire conditions strengthen blazes in western Montana | Montana News

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Another day of fast winds, hot temperatures and dry air fanned the flames of several regional wildfires.

For the past seven days, the National Weather Service has issued a four-day red flag warning for western Montana, alerting to the strongest conditions for the current fires to spread and potential sparks to become wildfires. of forest.

Across much of central Idaho, western and central Montana, sustained winds reached 15 mph to 25 mph while gusts reached 30 mph to 40 mph on Thursday. High temperatures hit the 80s and 90s – a small break from the triple-digit temperatures that could return to the forecast next week.

The fire danger in Bitterroot National Forest is extreme, the highest of five levels. The fire danger is very high, the second highest level, in the Lolo National Forest. The fire danger is extreme in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho.

moose fire

The Moose Fire, located 17 miles north of Salmon, Idaho, is expected to spread rapidly as the fire approaches communities and infrastructure to the south.

The fire had scorched more than 64,000 acres of the Salmon-Challis National Forest as of Thursday morning. At least seven structures, all minor outbuildings, burned. More than 350 single-family residences and one multi-unit residence are threatened.

The passage of a dry cold front is expected to worsen conditions. About 20% of the fire is contained.

The fire threatens the municipal watershed of Salmon as well as energy and mining infrastructure. The municipal watershed, which supplies area residents with water, is within 5 miles of the fire’s path.

“It’s paramount that the watershed is protected, it’s a big concern for us,” said Gil Knight, public information officer for the Moose Fire.

Great Basin Team 1, the largest Type I firefighting incident command unit, took control of the fire on August 3. More than 1,000 firefighters and 10 aircraft are battling the blaze. The Moose Fire is one of the largest fires currently burning in the lower 48 states.

Fire experts predict that the winds will contribute to surface and crown fires with the potential to burn large groups of trees. The fire is burning in steep and dangerous terrain that has always been difficult for firefighters.

Westerly winds with gusts of up to 48 mph could push the limits of the fire half a mile on the eastern flank by Friday.

A large spot fire developed along a ridge line just west of the Salmon River Corridor near the community of Carmen, Idaho. Communities from Carmen to the North Fork of the Salmon River are in the pre-evacuation phase.

Salmon River Road is partially closed, with only residents, rafting outfitters and river users with flotation permits allowed to travel behind a pilot car. Highway 93 is still open.

red horn fire

No structures are yet at risk in the Redhorn Fire, which grew to 180 acres Thursday in a remote wilderness area in the Mission Mountains. Firefighters are planning rescue lines in case the fire explodes in dry and windy conditions.

Triggered by a lightning strike on Monday, the blaze is burning in the tribal wilderness on the west side of McDonald’s Peak. It’s about 7 miles northeast as the bird flies from St. Ignace.

There are no evacuations or closures, although the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes generally close the area until October 1 to protect grizzly bear habitat.

A local Type III Incident Command team responded to the scene, led by Art Trahan and Richard Fisher. A total of 42 people watch the fire. On Wednesday, firefighters reported intense fire activity with group tree burning, hill descents and short-range scouting. Aircraft will be used as long as conditions allow to limit the spread of the fire.

More aggressive fire spread is expected under the red flag warning on Thursday. Fire personnel conduct reconnaissance and assess rescue lines south of Lake McDonald and north of Lake Ashley.

water trough fire

Located in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area, firefighters expect the Hog Trough Fire to grow northwest and southeast. The active behavior of the fire pushed the burn, 17 miles northwest of Hamilton, closer to the edge of a 2005 Signal Rock wildfire scar in which it started.

Northern Rockies Team 5, a Type II Incident Command Team, took control of operations Wednesday night. More than 300 firefighters are on site, in an effort to contain the blaze in the wild area.

The fire spans 749 acres and does not threaten any structures, but has triggered the closure of several Forest Service roads near the Skalkaho Highway, which remains open. Fire crews plan to make containment lines on the nearest roads to prevent the spread outside the wilderness area.

Other crews cut handlines along ridgelines to keep the fire from jumping Highway 38. Helicopters doused hot spots with buckets of water on the west and northwest blazes of the fire.

weasel fire

Located 14 miles northeast of Eureka, lightning sparked the Weasel Fire in a wooded area near the convergence of the Canadian border and Flathead and Lincoln counties.

At least 160 acres of forest burned, forcing firefighters to close the Grand Therriault and Petit Therriault campgrounds. A Type III team took control of the fire and 74 people joined the firefighting efforts.

Fire meteorology experts predicted moderate fire behavior with tree fires and small patches. The team hopes to control the line of fire along Highway #114. Firefighters also successfully protected Weasel’s historic cabin with fire-resistant wrapping on August 2.

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