Selway-Bitterroot Smoke Stays in the Valley
The Powell SBW Fire Complex has burned over 35,000 acres and most of the smoke of the eastern advances (see red zones on map) have come into the Bitterroot Valley. The fire front of the Cedar and Fern Fires is still about 8 miles from the Montana border, west of Blodgett Pass. The Freeze Out Queen Fire has been heading toward US 12 near the Warm Springs Trailhead.
The Freeze Out Queen Fire is also near the Lochsa River and plans are being made to keep the fire on the south side of Highway 12. Traffic management plans are being studied.
Farther south on the Bitterroot National Forest west of Hamilton, on Downing Mountain, the Sawtooth Fire was still at 400 acres early Wednesday afternoon. The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team assumed command today. Weather is a prime concern, with historic examples of how cold fronts have moved fires into the Bitterroot Valley quickly.
Ground crews continue work on the north edge of the fire, trying to keep the flames out of Canyon Creek, and along Sawtooth Creek to the southeast, hoping to keep the fire on the north side of the creek. Helicopters are continuing to drop water on the blaze.
At the south end of the valley, the Mustang Complex is expected to burn with winds blowing to the east. It is currently at 246,000 acres and the heavy smoke in the immediate area of fire was reinforced by even more smoke from the McGuire Complex, farther west in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The fire is still about 3 miles from US 93 and though the road remains open, there are speed restrictions and cautions about smoke.
The McGuire Complex in the Red River Ranger District has caused people to evacuate in the communities of Oregrande and Dixie/Comstock. The Magruder Road is only open from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
Elsewhere in the wilderness, along the Selway River, the Selway Trail from Shearer to Running Creek has reopened.