A lightning-caused forest fire, the Chute Creek fire, grew to over 662 acres in a short time this week west of the Bitterroot Valley in Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

The fire spread plenty of smoke into the Hamilton area Tuesday and Wednesday, most of the smoke coming through Blodgett Canyon. The fire is about 2.5 miles west of Blodgett Lake, still inside the wilderness boundary. It was first spotted Sunday, August 13, according to Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest reports. The fire was hottest on its eastern edge along East Moose Creek.

A quick look at the other wilderness fires: The Hidden Fire is about the same size as last report 4,627 acres. Moose Creek 1 grew 1,000 acres and is now 8,729 acres. The Lone Pine fire had minimal growth and is at 5,762 acres. South, in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the Rattlesnake Point Fire is 4,394 acres.

Other forest fires Wednesday afternoon, August 16:
The Meyers fire team, south of Philipsburg is planning a Public Meeting Thursday afternoon at the Georgetown Lake Volunteer Fire Department. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the personalized fire briefings begin at 5 p.m. That fire has burned 13,797 acres and the Moose Lake evacuation level is now reduced to a warning level Yellow instead of Red.

Lolo Peak Fire is at 10,363 acres and, as of Wednesday afternoon, pilot cars were taking motorists through the most dangerous section of Highway 12. The Montana Department of Transportation advises motorists to expect reduced speeds and possible closures at any time.

At Seeley Lake, the air is still very bad, with the Liberty Fire at 5,400 acres and the Rice Ridge Fire at 12,091 acres.

The new lightning caused Blue Bay Fire on the east side of Flathead Lake is now 65 acres in size. It's burning in the hills along Teepee Creek east of Highway 35.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, air quality in Hamilton was Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, and it was Moderate in Missoula.

Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest reports that Stage 1 Fire Restrictions have been imposed on the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, east of Sula. No campfires, but there are other rules. Check with the nearest ranger station before you head into the area. The Bitterroot National Forest has Stage 2 Fire Restrictions and the fire danger all over Western Montana is Extreme.

Don't start any campfires!