A controlled burn operation brought the Moss Ranch fire in the Mission Valley to 4,868 acres Saturday morning, up from 450 acres Friday.

The fire is burning through grass and timber on the west side of the Flathead River, about 14 miles southwest of Ronan. Yesterday, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes conducted a controlled burnout to remove hazardous fuels in the area.

"It's within the control lines, everything went really well yesterday," said C.T. Camel, fire prevention specialist with the division. Some 170 personnel, aided by four aircraft and several pieces of heavy equipment, are currently assigned to the fire. With high winds forecast for Saturday, they plan to focus on securing control lines and mopping up hotspots near the fire's perimeter.

No infrastructure or structures are threatened at this time, but the Nenemay, FB-4000 and FB-1000 roads are closed. Visit the CSKT Division of Fire Facebook page for updates.

Separately, the Beeskove fire in Rattlesnake National Recreation Area in Missoula remained about 35 acres in size Saturday morning, with 103 personnel assigned. "Fire behavior is moderate with single-tree torching, flanking and backing and growth to the east, with uphill runs due to debris roll-out and overnight thermal development," states the latest update on the federal government's Inciweb page.

A wildfire led to the evacuation of about 100 homes north of Helena while fire crews halted work on a blaze in southwestern Montana after crews found unexploded artillery shells, officials said.

Fire managers made an aggressive attack on a fire north of Lake Helena Friday, using three air tankers and two helicopters. However, when the winds shifted Lewis and Clark County officials ordered the evacuations in an area north of the lake and west of the Missouri River.

Additional evacuations were ordered Saturday, including the Black Sandy and White Sandy campgrounds along the Missouri River, as a red flag warning took effect for low humidity and thunderstorms. The fire grew to about 100 acres.

"We are preparing for the worst-case scenario," Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told the Independent Record.

Emergency management officials said Saturday a bulldozer line had been built around the fire and aircraft continued to drop fire retardant, but no containment level has been established.

South of Bannack State Park, firefighters were pulled off a lightning-caused fire Friday after the unexploded shells were found within the boundary of the 150-acre fire. The Beaverhead County sheriff's office and the Lewis and Clark County ordinance team removed the shells and were searching for others, the Montana Standard reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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