A Growth Weekend for Area Forest Fires – More Smoke in Valley
The Moose Meadows Fire, 18 miles southwest of Philipsburg, grew to over 1,400 by Sunday morning and the Gold Pan Complex of fires (Gold Pan and Goat fires) in the Frank Church Wilderness gained 2,000 acres Friday and more on Saturday and is now over 7,000 acres. Smoke plumes from both fires were visible from Hamilton Saturday.
The growth comes from the continuing heatwave and some gusty winds that blew through the region Saturday. The Bitterroot National Forest closed the Magruder Road at Nez Perce Pass Saturday because the fire is now burning on both sides of the Selway River and is within a half mile of the historic Magruder Ranger Station, which has protection of sprinklers and some cabin wrap.
Crews on the West Fork Ranger District also wrapped Hells Half Lookout, according to Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest. A Type 2 Northern Rockies Wildland Fire Management team will take over management of the fire Monday.
The Moose Meadows fire, east of the Bitterroot Valley, is at 1,600 acres, as of Sunday morning. There is an evacuation of the Moose Lake and Kaiser Lake areas, with 30 structures threatened at this time.
Strong winds Saturday afternoon resulted in the fire crossing Lone Pine Ridge. At that point, the Incident Management Team, Granite County Sheriff and DES decided to evacuate all residences south of the junction of Forest Service Road 5130 and the Middle Fork Road. The Moose Meadows Fire, which is burning in heavy beetle-killed lodgepole and fir, was blowing embers ahead of the fire Saturday and created new starts. There are 250 firefighters on the lines of the blaze is on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Most of the smoke in the valley, however, is coming from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, where wilderness fires on the Clearwater and Nez Perce Forests in Idaho have greatly increased in size, again due to the wind and hot temperatures. No official size estimates have been released as of Sunday morning.