LIBBY – It ain’t over till it’s over, and it’s still a very active wildfire season in the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana.
Two wildfires there, at least one of which has been burning since August, continue to concern officials, especially considering winds and record-threatening temperatures are forecast in the coming days and precious little precipitation fell this month.
The Klatawa fire is the largest of the two, at 5,112 acres.
“Most of the fire growth is topography-driven and, with the winds, fire personnel are expecting to see continued creeping and backing into the hand lines that have been constructed,” according to Willie Sykes, Kootenai National Forest spokesman. “Fire personnel will continue to monitor and reinforce fire lines to keep the fire from spreading toward private property and homes.”
The Smearl fire in the Leigh Lake area is 180 acres, and approximately two-thirds of it has a hand-line around it.
The fires have received just .13 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1. Wind gusts of up to 24 mph were predicted for Monday, and Sykes said near-record temperatures are predicted into next week.
“With the predicted high-pressure front developing, inversions will keep smoke in the valley during the week,” Sykes said.
Resources are being shared between the two wildfires. Four helicopters have been working hot spots and providing air support during the last four days, and staffing includes four 20-person crews, 10 smokejumpers, 18 helitack personnel, three district engines, and 10 miscellaneous support personnel.