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Firefighters Wary of the Wind Gusts – September 6 Update

hose lay
Laying hose at Hughes Creek, Montana. (Catherine Hibbard/USFS Photo)
A forecast of gusty winds has firefighters concerned at forest fires in and near the Bitterroot Valley.

The fire closest to Hamilton, the Sawtooth Fire, is burning 7 miles southwest of town in rugged, rocky terrain above Sawtooth Creek, behind Downing Mountain. The 420-acre fire could spread south of Sawtooth Creek, so firefighters are laying sprinkler line to keep that from happening. The fire could also spread northeast into the densely forested Canyon Creek. Crews are working on the ridge between the two canyons and a “helowell” will be set up to help helicopters precisely target water and retardant drops. Three helicopters have been assigned to this blaze.

The Powell SBW Complex in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness has grown to the east and north. It is now over 35,000 acres and has burned within 50 yards of US 12 on the east side of Lolo Pass. The road remains open, but travelers should expect speed limits and delays.

The communities of Dixie/Comstock and Orogrande, Idaho, have been facing evacuations because of the 17,000 acre McGuire Complex. A dozer line was created in the headwaters of Olive Creek and a dozer line was also established along the west side of Dixie. Structure protection is in place throughout the area.

Smoke from the McGuire Fire has blown all the way across the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness into Ravalli County. Also, the Porcupine Fire has caused the Magruder Road to be open only two hours a day – from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

The Mustang Fire is still listed at 246,000 acres and traffic is much slower on US 93 south of Lost Trail Pass. The road remains open. Structure protection is in place in Montana’s Hughes Creek and at Lost Trail Powder Mountain ski area.

Hourly particulate measurement of air quality in the Hamilton area Thursday morning is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” and the cumulative measurements – both 8 hour and 24 hour – are in the “Unhealthy” category.

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