Sawtooth Managers Prepare for Any Possibility
Even though the Sawtooth Forest Fire is only 570 acres in size, the firefighters are preparing for two cold fronts coming from the west. And they're looking at the history of fires in the Sawtooth, Canyon and Blodgett Creek Canyons.
Because of that, and a Red Flag warning issued by the National Weather Service for high winds both Sunday and Monday, two ground crews have been pulled back to fire camp, and a contingency fire line is being prepared west of Hamilton, along the base of Downing Mountain.
Fire officials said the line is there to "strengthen protection of the infrastructure in the event the fire comes out of Sawtooth Canyon or off Downing Mountain." It is considered a "worse case scenario" and hopefully will not be needed, but residents are asked to watch for increased firefighter and heavy equipment movement. Hamilton fire department personnel and Ravalli County Sheriff Deputies are helping with the establishment of that line.
Meanwhile, the hose and sprinkler line along Sawtooth Creek, to prevent the fire moving south across the creek, has been completed.
A fire information wagon is in place across US 93 from Roaring Lion road, south of Hamilton.
The Mustang forest fire in Salmon-Challis National Forest has moved closer to US 93. The closest fire front is now 2 miles away. With the Red Flag warning, Level Three Evacations are being conducted for residents along US 93 from Quartz Creek to North Fork, which includes Gibbonsville.
At this time, (1 p.m. Sunday) US 93 remains open, but there are speed restrictions and fire traffic.
Rapid movement of the fire is probably with any strong winds. The fire is now 261,000 acres, as of Sunday morning.
The Powell fire complex in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, west of the Bitterroot Valley, is now estimated to have burned over 40,000 acres. There was no significant gain in the fire Saturday. Heavy helicopters have made numerous water drops around Bear Mountain Lookout and pumps were run near the Pack Bridges. Officials are concerned about the winds Sunday and Monday.
Air quality in the Bitterroot Valley is "Unhealthy,'" in the hourly particulate count and the cumulative reading. The hourly count has been going steadily up through the Unhealthy zone since early Sunday morning.