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Sunday Smoke – Fire Update August 19

mustang fire
The Mustang Fire at the edge of the Salmon River. (USFS Photo)
Sunday morning dawned hot and smoky in the Bitterroot Valley.

Smoke settled along the Bitterroot Mountains and Sapphire Mountains as Idaho forest fires increased their size Saturday. The Bitterroot National Forest is at Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, but there are no new fires to report this morning.

Smoke is reported over almost half of the United States today by NOAA satellite sensors. Ravalli County’s smoke is coming from fires in the wilderness, but we’re also getting smoke from fires in Oregon and as far away as northern California.

Meanwhile, the nearby Powell SBW East complex of fires has poured more smoke into the valley, some of the smoke is coming from the Fern fire and the Dan fires in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The Cedar Fire is still threatening the Elk Summit facilities. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are monitoring the fires, but no acreage estimate Sunday morning.

The Mustang complex on the Salmon-Challis National Forest crept closer to the Bitterroot National Forest and burned down to the Salmon River this weekend (see photo). The fire is now estimated at over 85,000 acres and the main fires are the Mustang fire and the Lost Packer fire. Both fires are spreading toward the Gattin Ranch, with the Mustang expected to advance to Indian Creek and Mount Dutchman and the Lost Packer fire growing south along the river and west of Corn Creek. The Salmon River remains open to rafting and jet boat recreationists, but everyone is expected to check in with the North Fork Ranger Station, before heading down the Salmon River Road. The general public is asked to not use that road because of heavy fire traffic and debris that is rolling down the hillsides onto the roadway.

Northwest of Stanley, Idaho, the Halstead Fire has burned almost 92,000 acres and was active Saturday on the southern flank from the old Potato Mountain burn area to the Vanity Lakes area. The fire is paralleling the Basin Butte Road. Air quality was improved, but the smoke was more widespread. Highways 21 and 75 remain open.

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