While Montana’s fire season has been relatively mild compared to the rest of country, a handful of significant blazes have popped up in the last few weeks.
The Thompson River Complex, currently the largest fire in Montana, has grown to over 1,500 acres in the last week. The complex is comprised of four fires- the Spruce, Marmot, Koo-Koo-Sint, and the Sleepy Gulch fire, which began on Wednesday along the West Fork of the Thompson River about six miles east of the town of Thompson Falls. Efforts to battle the blaze have been hampered by the extremely steep, rocky terrain, making direct attack on portions completely impossible and leaving the complex only 15% contained after beginning on August 1st. A portion of the Koo-Koo-Sint fire sits directly above highway 200, creating a hazard for motorists with rolling debris potentially coming down the steep, rocky slope at high speeds. Anyone passing by is urged not to stop, as doing so is a hazard to personal safety and could hinder fire traffic and emergency personnel in the area.
Up to date information on the Thompson River Complex can be found here.
Elsewhere on the Lolo National Forest in Montana, the 82 acre West Alder Fire continues to burn 20 miles south of I-90 near Rock Creek Road. The fire began on August 9th due to lightning and is currently 25% contained, though efforts have been emboldened by a weather system moving through the area yesterday and today. Local fire weather forecasts predict showers with wetting rain for the area through Friday, with temperatures tonight expected to drop as low as 50 degrees. However, as with the Thompson River Complex, steep and rocky terrain is making the situation difficult for handcrews, resulting in an increased reliance on the two helicopters assigned to the fire.
Current information on the fire and area closures associated with it can be found here.
Finally, the Seepay Fire on tribal land 20 miles west of Dixon, MT, is still creating headaches for firefighters. The fire began on July 17th and has grown to over 1,000 acres, with rugged terrain and active weather systems challenging efforts to contain the blaze. On Wednesday, a storm bringing winds of up to 47 miles per hour allowed the fire to gain 150 acres over the course of 24 hours, though heavy rainfall did help to control that expansion. There are currently 110 firefighters assigned to the blaze.
More information on the Seepay fire can be found via InciWeb.