The Friday thunderstorms, which stretched from Lost Trail Pass to the Canadian border, caused power outages, fallen trees and broken branches throughout the Bitterroot Valley. Over 10,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were counted by satellite.

The Montana Highway Patrol had to direct traffic on Highway 93 through the Woodside intersection Friday evening during a power outage. Many broadcast facilities were off the air, due to the storm. Most power was restored by late Saturday.

At the Gold Pan forest fire, in the Frank Church Wilderness, the passing thunderstorms brought high velocity "microbursts" that aimed straight down, ripping up and breaking both burned and living trees. (see photo)

Many examples of the microbursts were observed by firefighters and further examination found downed trees on the Magruder Road, in the Hells Half Acre Creek area, east of Horsejaw Mountain, and in the Paradise area.

The Gold Pan fire has been kept in the wilderness and south of the Magruder Road so far and is now over 17,000 acres in size.

Campfire Danger
Meanwhile, the Bitterroot National Forest is experiencing a swarm of illegal, abandoned and escaped campfires - 23 in the last week. According to Tod McKay, two were found off the Skalkaho Highway - one near Gird Point Lookout and the other up Railroad Creek. Those two had escaped their fire rings and crews stopped them before grass and trees started to burn.

The county and forest are under Stage One fire restrictions, which prohibits campfires, except in official campgrounds in approved metal or concrete fire rings. The fire danger remains "Very High" in the Bitterroot.

Our best advice - don't build a campfire. If you do have a campfire, before you leave it, make sure it is completely, cold-to-the-touch, OUT!