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Bitterroot Valley Smoke Gets Serious

diablo lookout
Diablo Lookout in Idaho has been threatened by forest fire. (Powell Fire Photo)

The cumulative effect of the smoke in the Bitterroot Valley is listed as “Unhealthy,” using particulate measurements from the monitoring station at the Ravalli County Courthouse in Hamilton.

The Unhealthy setting means that people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid any outdoor activity, and everyone else should avoid prolonged exertion.

The worst day was Sunday, so far, and into the evening the measurements were the highest, dropping off significantly on Monday.

The smoke is coming from the usual place – the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. In the wilderness, the Powell East and the Powell West complexes of fires have burned about 20,000 acres, in the latest report Monday afternoon from the Clear-Nez Fire Zone. The East complex includes the Fern Fire and the Dan Fire, each of which grew to the east over the weekend.

Meanwhile, on the Moose Creek Ranger District there are three major fires – The 7,000 acre Ditch Fire, the 3,900 acre Vista Fire and the 3,000 acre  Pettibone Fire. The fires are being monitored by Forest Service personnel.

South of the valley, the Mustang complex, consisting mainly of the Mustang and Lost Packer Fires north of the Salmon River, is at 137,000 acres and the fire has been affected by thunderstorms. The Mustang Fire on the northeast has crossed over into the Bitterroot National Forest of Montana near Blue Nose Lookout. The fire is also approaching the Gattin Ranch. Structure protection is in place.

Structure preparation is also being assessed for North Fork and Gibbonsville areas. Authorities are also assessing the Cabin Springs and Hamilton Fires, which are west of the Lost Packer Fire.

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