Firefighters spent the weekend dealing with a series of small fires that sparked to life across western Montana.
On Saturday alone, lightning was responsible for starting 18 new fires, Lolo National Forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig said. Five more lightning-caused fires started Sunday. Three other fires were determined to be human-caused.
On the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District, smoke from more than a dozen fires was visible from Montana Highway 200 on Sunday, although no structures are currently at risk. A type 3 incident management team has been organized to staff the Plains/Thompson Falls fires.
Fire crews were still spotting and attacking new blazes in the area, including two possibly started by sparks from the railroad, said John Hamilton, public information officer for the incident management team.
Two of the fires, the 10-acre Kookoosint 1 and 2-acre Kookoosint 2, are in steep and rocky terrain seven miles east of Thompson Falls north of Highway 200. Two more fires, Spruce Creek 1 and 2, are burning 50 acres in a remote area of the West Fork Thompson River drainage. The four fires make up the Thompson River Complex, Hamilton said.
“We’re bombarding them with retardant because we can’t get ground crews in right now,” he said.
Hamilton said firefighters on the ground currently are working on the smaller fires in the area
Nine fires – including one that was human-caused – on the Superior Ranger District were all quickly contained by crews, although firefighters will continue to monitor them.
Two fires on the Ninemile Ranger District have been contained. One fire was burning north of Kreis Pond, and both were smaller than one acre.
The Trail Creek fire, about one mile south of the Pyramid Pass Trailhead on the Seeley Lake Ranger District was contained and will be monitored. It was smaller than one acre.
Firefighters have contained the Howard Creek fire, burning seven miles northeast of Lolo Hot Springs on the Missoula Ranger District. The 12-acre fire is in mop-up and patrol status, although an area closure remains in effect.
The boundaries of the closure are Wagon Mountain Road south to U.S. Highway 12, and Graves Creek Road west to Wagon Mountain Road. Wagon Mountain Road is the only road closed.