As in any recently burned area, you can smell the ashes.

The Sleeping Child Fire burned grass, brush and trees when lightning started it Wednesday evening. The fire began at the mouth of the canyon and spread quickly along the ridge, toward houses on either side.

Firefighters were battling a strong and erratic wind, but managed to keep the fire away from the structures. The Hamilton and Darby Volunteer Fire Departments received help from most of the other departments in the valley, along with two crews of firefighters and two helicopters dropping water, provided by the Bitterroot National Forest. The help was needed, and the efforts paid off.

Thursday morning, the Hamilton department went back to the scene and put out hot spots, but by the afternoon, everything was calm again.

Smoke is filling the valley from forest fires all around us. One of the biggest is the Halstead Fire, north of Stanley, Idaho, which was estimated over 36,000 acres Thursday. The winds from the south have been bringing smoke from that fire and others to the Bitterroot Valley.

To the west, in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the Fern Fire, part of the Powell SBW East Complex, is now 713 acres. There are 17 smaller fires in that complex in Idaho. Officials on the Powell Ranger District are looked at the threat to the Elk Summit Guard Station. Structure protection is already in place at Colt Killed Pack Bridge.

The Clear/Nez Fire Zone (representing both the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests) reported 41 new wildfires from the lightning storm Wednesday. All are very small at this time.