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Forest Fires Continue to Fill Valleys With Smoke- August 22

west fork fires
Smoke from some of the West Fork Fires on the Bitterroot National Forest. (USFS Photo)
Forest fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in both Idaho and Montana are growing daily. Much of the smoke drifting into the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys and along the Highway 12 corridor is from the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho.

The Powell SBW East and West Complexes of fires are about 40 miles southwest of Lolo in Idaho and have added eight new fires, with a total of 12,357 acres burned so far. The largest fire is the combination of the Fern Fire and the North Dan and Lower Dan Fires, which burned together this week. That blaze alone is over 4,300 acres. Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is closed.

In the center of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness are fires near the Moose Creek Ranger Station, including the Vista Fire which is over 2,500 acres.

Farther south in the wilderness, the Ditch Fire, which started on the Moose Creek District has spread into the Bitterroot National Forest along the Selway River. That fire is over 4,000 acres and is less than a mile from the North Star Ranch. Structure protection is being done at the ranch.

Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest said there are nine lightning caused fires, burning over 3,400 acres on the West Fork District, all in wilderness areas. (see photo) Of those blazes, the Cabin Springs Fire is 1,680 acres and the Salamander Fire is 900 acres. The Magruder Road Corridor remains open and no structures are threatened at this time. For the latest information the Magruder Road, call the Elk City Ranger Station at 208-842-2245.

Then, there’s the Mustang complex on Idaho’s Salmon-Challis National Forest. It is edging toward 100,000 acres as the Mustang fire and four other fires have burned together, while the Lost Packer fire has also grown. The combined fires are burning along the Salmon River on the south and moving toward the Bitterroot National Forest and Montana on the northwest. Structure protection has been done from Corn Creek to Lantz Bar on the Salmon River and along Indian Creek.

The Salmon River remains open for jet boats and rafting trips, but everyone must first check in at the North Fork Ranger Station before traveling up the Salmon River Road.

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