Forest fires are beginning to surround the Bitterroot Valley. The Wednesday morning update on Montana's Bear Creek Fire southeast of the valley on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest pegs the size of the blaze at 7,543 acres (from an overnight infrared flight). As of August 19, there are 480 people, 8 helicopters and 2 water-scooper airplanes on that fire, with smoke in the Big Hole and in the Dillon and Salmon, Idaho areas.

Idaho's forest fire activity is climbing, as is the fire danger. A new fire started this week in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. The Shissler Fire (photo above) is about 50 miles southwest of Darby, two miles south of Red River Hot Springs, Idaho. A Type 3 Incident Management Team has been dispatched. Smoke from that blaze is coming into the south end of the Bitterroot Valley. The fire danger on the Idaho forests is either Extreme or Very High, depending on ranger district. And with the recent lightning storms, we can expect more fire starts.

The Bitterroot National Forest has experienced more fires from abandoned campfires than in past years. They are being found by forest service patrols each week. Again, we urge you to put your campfire completely out when you leave your campsite. The coals must be cold to the touch. Fire danger is High on the Bitterroot National Forest. And, by the way, there is no open burning allowed on private lands in Ravalli County, due to the fire danger.