Forest officials expect more smoke from the 41 Complex forest fire later this week, as another few days of 80-degree temperatures are predicted for the Bitterroot Valley. The valley air has been much easier to breathe this past weekend.
The 41 Complex forest fire is at 11,480 acres in the Sapphire Mountains east of Hamilton, and the Saddle Complex forest fire, south of Painted Rocks Reservoir, is at 32,365 acres. Both fires were not as active this weekend, with higher humidity and lower temperatures. Crews were able to work farther in from the fire line toward the actual fire on the 41 Complex. On the Saddle Complex, crews were able to roll up some hose and rehabilitate some fire lines.
The Saddle Complex is letting some people go and fire shelter material has been taken off the Alta Ranger station since high winds did not cause a problem last week.
The 41 Complex fire will be managed by the Bitterroot National Forest again this week, as the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team wraps up their work Monday. About 200 people remain at the fire. The fire is still burning in downed logs, stumps, root systems, snags and in areas where dense tree cover didn't let the moisture reach the ground.
The Skalkaho Highway is still closed because of the 41 Complex is still burning on either side of the road in places, and there's a danger of falling rocks and snags. Beacuse the fire might grow farther to the east, sprinklers have been placed at the Mud Lake and Crystal Creek campgrounds.
Some national forest land around the 41 Complex has been re-opened. Check with your friendly, neighborhood Forest Service before headin' out.