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Hughes Creek Evacuation Alert is Lifted – Monday Fire Update

sawtooth fire
The western edge of the Sawtooth forest Fire this weekend. (USFS Photo)
The Mustang Complex, mainly in Idaho, is listed as having burned 339,110 acres as of Monday morning, but crews are mopping up many sections of the blaze, and the portion that has been threatening Montana’s Hughes Creek and Alta areas south of Painted Rocks Reservoior has been reaching containment.

So, the evacuation orders for those areas are lifted, as of 6 p.m. Monday, according to Mustang Complex fire managers. Crews have also been successful with mop up work at the Gattin Ranch. Light smoke was drifting along the ridge tops around that area.

Nearby the Mustang Fire is the 33,000 acre Porcupine Fire, which has closed the Magruder Road between Observation Point and Elk City. The portion of that fire that slipped over into the Bitterroot National Forest has been turned over to crews from the Bitterroot.

Managers of the 42,296 acres McGuire Fire are allowing Dixie, Idaho, residents to travel the road to Dixie without pilot car escort. Mail service in Dixie started again Monday. Crews are removing structure protection in many areas, including the Mallard Creek Ranch.

Russ Williams of the Bitterroot National Forest reports that the Sawtooth Fire has hot spots on the western edge, within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (see photo). He said some interior areas may burn, releasing more smoke, but those areas are well away from the east and north perimeters.

Williams said that we’ve broken a record in Hamilton for lack of rain. The Weather Service noted that Hamilton has always has had measurable precipitation at least once per month in any year in recorded history. September broke that string with no measurable rainfall on any day. And the Northern Rockies area is over 40 consecutive days without precipitation. At 42 days, it will break a two-month “dryness” record, going back to 1896.

So, where is all the smoke coming from? According to NESDIS program from a NOAA satellite, forest fires in the Moose Creek area and in the Powell Complex have been responsible for most of the smoke in the valley Sunday and Monday. Those wilderness fires combined have burned over 100,000 acres. However, we have no updated figure on the Powell Complex, which has been most active with group torching and crown runs on the Fern Fire in the Storm Creek area, which continues to send smoke west toward Victor and Stevensville.

Air quality at the Ravalli County Courthouse particulate count monitor in Hamilton was either “Moderate” and “Good” in the daylight hours Monday.

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