Strong Sunday winds expanded the Alder Creek fire to more than 500 acres by Monday in the mountains 12 miles southeast of Stevensville.
About 80 firefighters and three helicopters were dispatched to the fire on Monday. They complemented a dozen Missoula-based smokejumpers who made an initial attack on Sunday afternoon.
Fire managers hope to use old burn scars from the 2000 and 2007 fire seasons to contain some of this blaze, according to Lolo National Forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig.
No buildings or developed areas are threatened by the fire, but U.S. Forest Service officials have closed part of Sawmill Road No. 710 where it crosses into the Bitterroot National Forest near mileposts 4 and 5, as well as part of the Ambrose-Sawmill Road No. 4267. Forest Service trails no 313, 213 and 146 are also closed for fire activity.
A much smaller fire in the Silverthorn Creek drainage three miles southwest of Stevensville has drawn the efforts of two helicopters, seven firefighters and two fire engines. The lightning-caused fire has burned about one acre. Crews from the Alder Creek fire spotted this one Sunday afternoon.
Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at email@example.com.