Forest Fire Update – August 18
Fires on the Bitterroot National Forest are in the West Fork Ranger District inside the the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The largest is the Salamander Fire, though it is still about 3/4 of a mile away from the Magruder Corridor Road, which remains open at the point. Farther to the west, a complex of fires on the Red River Ranger District may impact the road. The 400 acre Bleak Fire and the Porcupine Fire could reach the road this weekend. There could be delays, pilot cars or closure of the Magruder Road with the fire activity. The Elk City Ranger Station has the latest information at 208-842-2245.
Smoke in the north end of the Bitterroot Valley seems to be coming from the Powell SBW East Complex in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness 37 miles southwest of Lolo. In that group of fires, the most active has been the Cedar Fire, which is threatening the Elk Summit Guard Station and Diablo Lookout. The complex of fires has burned over 5,700 acres so far and has been bringing smoke to the valley in the afternoons.
Smoke from those fires could also settle in the Highway 12 corridor over Lolo Pass, around the Lochsa Lodge. Motorists are advised to use extreme caution.
South of the valley, on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the Maverick Complex is now estimated at 81,000 acres and is moving east and northeast, toward the Bitterroot National Forest. Also, crews stood by on the Salmon River Road to protect areas between Shoup Store and Cove Creek this weekend as the fire burned down toward the Salmon River.
Firefighters are expecting activity in the Spring Creek and Indian Creek areas and are helping prepare protection around homes there. The Salmon River Road remains open to residents, river users launching from Cove Creek and Corn Creek and to Middle Fork rafters taking out at Stoddard, Cache Bar and Corn Creek. The general public, however, is advised to stay away due to fire traffic on the narrow road.
About 500 firefighters are on the firelines, coming from all over the US.
Farther South, the Halstead wildfire is now at 88,000 acres and moved toward Bernard Creek in the Vanity Lakes area. It also burned west of Basin Butte and the head of east Valley Creek.
Highways 21 and 75 remain open within the closed area around the fire. Poor air quality is being reported in the Stanley area with the thick smoke overnight Friday into Saturday.
A pilot car is operating from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Banner Summit on Highway 21 because of the nearby Bench Fire, which is about 200 acres in size.