Smoke Continues to Dominate in Ravalli and Missoula Counties
Many people in Western Montana are regularly visiting the Montana Air Quality website to see how bad the conditions are in this smoky forest fire season.
Air quality Tuesday morning, August 22, were: Missoula - Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, Hamilton - Moderate, Seeley Lake - Hazardous. Levels change throughout the day.
Bitterroot National Forest Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson told the Ravalli County Commissioners August 21 that the Bitterroot Valley smoke is coming from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness fires, but also from large fires on the Payette National Forest, farther west.
He said there were three small lightning-caused "holdover" fires in the Sula and West Fork Ranger Districts of the Bitterroot National Forest last week. All were put out. He reported that the Lolo Peak Fire has burned actively in the Carlton Creek area and has been generally moving south on the Bitterroot National Forest and private land on the west side of the valley.
The Lolo Peak Fire is now 32,328 acres. As of 9 p.m. August 21, evacuated residents on Balsam Root, Folsom and Highland Roads were allowed back in their homes under a downgraded Evacuation Warning level, according to the Missoula County Sheriff's Office. Residents north of West Carlton Creek Road were also moved to Evacuation Warning level. A trailer set up at Farmer's State Bank parking lot in Florence has the latest information on Ravalli County evacuation areas.
In the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the smoke is coming from the 11,383 acre Moose 1 fire and the 6,177-acre Lone Pine, along with a number of smaller fires, according to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. They report the Hidden Fire at 4,754 acres with minimal growth and the Chute Creek Fire at 2,061 acres about a mile from Blodgett Lake. The Rattlesnake Point Fire in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is growing to the northwest and to the south. It is 4,626 acres.
Inciweb reports (from August 21 and 22):
Sunrise Fire - 24,968 acres, Meyers Fire - 15,480 acres, Gilbralter Fire - 3,550 acres, Sapphire Complex - 38,219 acres, Liberty Fire - 7,787 acres, Rice Ridge Fire at 16,117 acres and the Blue Bay Fire at 480 acres.
Weather forecasters are predicting wind, lightning and a possibility of rain Wednesday night through Thursday.