The Sawtooth Fire west of Hamilton is 45 percent contained at 5,962 acres, as of Tuesday morning.

The important news came yesterday, as the fire managers and Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman moved the evacuation status around the fire to Stage 3. That is the call for neighborhoods to completely move back into their homes, put their livestock back in the field and don't expect to be evacuated in the near future.

The Sawtooth Fire continues to spread west into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and infrared surveys have indicated hot spots that are being handled by helicopters dropping water. Three trails are still closed - Sawtooth Creek, Roaring Lion and Canyon Creek. Rehabilitation of dozer and firelines is continuing.

Meanwhile, the large forest fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and south of the valley in the Salmon-Challis National Forest continue to send smoke into Western Montana. Weather fronts have teased us - passing nearby - but no appreciable rain has fallen. The smoke from the Powell Complex (see photo) and the Mustang Complex is spreading northward into Missoula County and forest fire smoke is getting thicker in Lake County.

Air quality at the Ravalli County Courthouse monitoring station in Hamilton shows the hourly particulate count at "Unhealthy," the 8-hour cumulative reading as "Very Unhealthy," and the 24-hour cumulative reading is "Hazardous."