Fire danger high, hot temperatures expected to continue

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It’s expected to be another hot and dry week in Northwest Montana after the fire danger was moved to high last week.

Highs in the mid-80s are predicted this week for the Flathead Valley, and the weekend is likely to see above normal temperatures with highs possibly reaching the low-100s with little chance for precipitation, according to the National Weather Service in Missoula.

Last week the fire danger was moved to high and there were several fire starts in the area.

“Area wildland firefighters have responded to 15 fire starts since June 28 in the Flathead area,” said Flathead National Forest spokeswoman Janette Turk, in a prepared release. “Of these starts, 11 were human-caused and four were holdover fires from lightning. Timely initial attack by firefighters kept these starts at less than an acre in size.”

The fire danger is high, but there are currently no fire restrictions in place. However, during high fire danger all fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes and unattended brush and camp fires are likely to escape, the forest service cautions.

Turk notes that forest visitors should be aware of the conditions while recreating in Northwest Montana.

“We can’t stop the hot weather and lightning storms, but we can do our part to be ‘Firewise’ when we are camping, traveling, and at home in the wildlands,” she said.

Lighting on Friday afternoon resulted in several fire starts across the area. About 20 fires started in 48 hours around Kalispell, Libby and Plains on Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation units.

The Rogers Mountain fire is located several miles northwest of Happy’s Inn and started near Loon Lake in Lincoln County. The fire is burning grass, brush and timber on steep slopes and was estimated at 75 acres in size as of Monday. Pre-evacuation notices were issued to residents in the area.

The Lazier Creek 3 fire is burning south of U.S. Highway 2 in Sanders County and is more than 1,000 acres. Evacuation notices were issued for the area of the Bend Ranger Station, according to the DNRC.

High temperatures combined with low fuel moistures created conditions where wildfires have potential to grow quickly, noted Ali Ulwelling, spokesperson for DNRC.

July has already been hot and dry with no rain and highs in the 80s and 90s.

Glacier Park International Airport recorded 16.15 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1, which is nearly double a normal year. However, May and June were both about an inch below normal for precipitation.

There were no major fires in the Flathead Valley last year. In Glacier National Park in 2016 the Reynolds Creek Fire burned about 4,850 acres along the Going-to-the-Sun Road just east of the divide.

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