Again this year, the south end of the Bitterroot Valley is the center of activity for forest firefighters.

The Mustang Complex of fires has been growing steadily north of the Salmon River in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. It has finally crossed over the Montana border into the Bitterroot National Forest.

The fire has increased in size about 30,000 just this week and is over 205,000 acres about 8 miles west of North Fork, Idaho. Part of that fire is reaching over to US 93 in the Gibbonsville area, with evacuation warnings fanning out through that corridor.

Highway 93 is open, but there are some speed restrictions and travelers are asked to be cautious because of heavy fire traffic. The Idaho National Guard has been called out to help the 800 people on the fire lines.The Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Salmon Valley Baptist Church with sleeping, meals and shower accommodations.

The north edge of the Mustang fire crept into an area on the Montana side of the border that is next to the Chrandal Fire, which caused area closures earlier this summer. These closures are similar (see photo).

Smoke is coming into the Bitterroot Valley from the Mustang Fire and the Powell Complex of fires in Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The Powell Complex is now over 26,000 acres and the initial path of that smoke drops it into Victor, causing the Victor football game Saturday afternoon to be moved to relatively smoke-free Arlee.

The Bitterroot Valley air quality Friday afternoon, using information from the monitor at the Ravalli County Courthouse, shows both the hourly and cumulative particulate count to be "Unhealthy," with means those with breathing problems should avoid prolonged exertion, and others should limit their exertion.