Firefighters continued operations on several of western Montana’s blazes Thursday.
On the Kootenai National Forest near Libby, the Highway 37 fire is currently about 70 acres, up from 51 acres on Tuesday. Forest spokesperson Willie Sykes attributed much of that growth to a recent burnout operation. He said that the fire is 40 percent contained, and that it remains about a mile and a half away from the Libby Superfund site’s Operable Unit 3, home to the now-closed W.R. Grace Vermiculite mine.
Sykes said the resources deployed on the fire, which include a contract crew specially trained and equipped to operate in and near the asbestos-laced forest, remain the same as in previous days. (See related story.)
Also on the Kootenai, the Zulu fire just has one crew, plus overhead, who are mopping up.
On the Bitterroot National Forest, the Reynolds Lake fire held steady at 1,068 acres Wednesday afternoon, according to the federal government’s InciWeb site. About 60 percent of its perimeter had been contained, and 113 personnel — four crews, backed by two engines and two helicopters — were active on the fire. They devoted Wednesday to mop-up and containment operations.
No structures are threatened, but Forest Road No. 044, which accesses the Reynolds Lake Trailhead, is currently closed. Members of the public are asked to not fly drones in the area.
The fire is projected to exhibit “mostly smoldering and creeping” behavior in coming days. Two crews have already been released, and the fire is slated to transition to a local Type 4 incident-management organization this weekend.
Farther south and east, the Bacon Rind fire in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park has grown little, with the perimeter around 40 acres. According to InciWeb, two 20-person crews and two helicopters are currently assigned to the fire.
Because of hazardous fuel conditions, fire managers are not putting firefighters on the ground at this time. However, they may engage the fire if it approaches private inholdings or Highway 191 (the road is not threatened at this time), according to InciWeb.