The air quality in western Montana has deteriorated because of numerous forest fires with considerable amounts of smoke. Friday afternoon, August 4, Hamilton and Missoula areas were reporting air quality "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups." The Seeley Lake air monitor was reporting "Very Unhealthy."

The Seeley Lake air is being filled with two fires - the Liberty Fire at 3,652 acres and the Rice Ridge Fire, burning over 6,875 acres as of Friday morning. Farther to the east, another major fire is burning on the Lolo and Flathead National Forests on Spotted Bear Ranger District. The Monahan Fire has grown to 1,768 acres this week.

The Bitterroot Mountains are hiding behind a smoky haze, with growth on three fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Friday, The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest put the Moose 1 Fire (near the Moose Creek Ranger Station) at 4,396 acres, the Lone Pine Fire (west of the Moose 1 Fire) at 2,963 acres and the Hidden Fire (three miles inside the wilderness boundary west of Victor) has now reached 1,500 acres. The Hidden Fire was spreading southwest, toward Frog Lake.

At the north end of the valley, the Lolo Peak Fire is about 6,875 acres as of Friday morning. The Firewise wagon is at the intersection of Highway 12 and US 93. There is an information board at the entrance of Super One Foods at Stevensville, too.

Farther north, the Sunrise fire is at 12,300 acres and a public meeting is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Lozeau Lodge Pavilion. That fire is 11 miles southeast of Superior.

The Sapphire Complex of fires has burned over 17,498 acres at Rock Creek. The Meyers Fire, south of Philipsburg, is over 12,120 acres. It's also burning in large areas of dead trees from the mountain pine beetle infestation.

Motorists are asked to NOT stop along major highways to take photos of the fires - especially on I-90 and Highway 12.

A reminder that the Bitterroot National Forest is now at "Extreme" fire conditions.
The forest and Ravalli County are also under Stage 2 fire restrictions. No campfires, no fireworks.

Stage 1 fire restrictions go into effect Saturday at the following counties: Madison, Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, Powell County south of I-90 and Highway 12, and Granite County south of I-90 and east of the Lolo National Forest.