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Hot and windy conditions ramp up Montana’s 2022 wildfire season

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Flames from the Moose Fire burn beside the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. PHOTO BY AUDREY CADWALLADER

Fire danger in Montana is ramping up with hot and windy days forecast in late July, and smoky skies from an Idaho fire.

By Keely Larson MONTANA FREE PRESS

Fire danger in Montana is ramping up with hot and windy days forecast through the week.

Though the summer has been largely smoke-free so far, a few fires in the state have garnered attention in the past couple of weeks, and smoke from the Moose Fire about 20 miles north of Salmon, Idaho, is tinting skies around Bozeman and Ennis.

The Moose Fire has covered 3,600 acres as of Tuesday, and the cause is undetermined. It’s burning on both sides of Salmon River Road, and crews are working to reduce the impact to recreationalists, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Inciweb page. The area is a popular launch point for boaters on the main stretch of the Salmon River and take-out spot for boaters on the Salmon’s Middle Fork, according to Amy Baumer, public affairs officer with the Salmon-Challis National Forest, which currently reports “very high” fire danger. Fires start easily and can spread quickly when conditions reach very high.

The Hog Trough Fire east of Hamilton is adding to the smoke in southwest Montana. At about 50 acres as of Tuesday morning, the lightning-sparked fire is burning in a scar from fires in the 2000s. According to the Bitterroot National Forest Facebook page, the fire was unstaffed as of Monday due to the remote and rugged location. The Gird Point Lookout is watching the fire for growth and reports back to fire managers with the Bitterroot and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests.

Fire danger in the Bitterroot National Forest is listed as high. In response to high temperatures and windy conditions, Ravalli County on July 18 declared a burn ban for the remainder of the summer. 

Smoke from the Hog Trough and Moose fires is expected to move east and reduce visibility through the I-90 corridor from Butte to Bozeman.

On July 16, the Moors Mountain Fire in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness outside of Helena burned about 90 acres and shot smoke high onto the valley’s horizon. A lightning storm Thursday night and Friday morning is likely to blame for the ignition, according to Chiara Cipriano, public affairs officer with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. 

Fire retardant was dropped on the ridgeline and five smokejumpers set up an anchor point to manage the fire. The next day, a 20-person crew hiked to the location and a team traveled from central Montana to assist the local response.

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