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A small retardant plane makes a drop on the 500-acre Ravalli-area fire that began Thursday in the grass next to U.S. Highway 93 on top of Ravalli Hill and has moved into the trees east of and above the town of Ravalli. Aircraft made several drops of water and retardant Friday afternoon when it appeared the fire was threatening a communication tower on the top of the hill.

Firefighters with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are working to put out a 500-acre blaze burning on Ravalli Hill.

C.T. Camel from CSKT's tribal fire division said it was first reported around 6 p.m. Thursday. Until Friday morning, crews from the Arlee, Mission, Ronan and Charlo volunteer fire departments also were assisting the tribe.

Camel said the fire is human-caused, and started next to U.S. Highway 93 across the road from the National Bison Range. It has been burning east on the hill, and while it started burning in the grass, Camel said it reached a timbered area on the hill Friday.

The fire was around 30 percent contained by Friday afternoon, Camel estimated. The 50 or so firefighters working on the blaze are being assisted by heavy equipment, including a bulldozer and a skidgen. Camel said two heavy air tankers also are dropping retardant on the fire, with the goal of keeping it from reaching a communication tower on top of the hill.


To the southwest of Hamilton, the Observation fire grew to 1,050 acres Friday. A Type 1 Incident Management Team under the command of Doug Turman took over control of the firefighting efforts, which are focused on improving the line along the southeast area of the blaze and along Lost Horse Road.

Fire retardant and water drops continue on the areas of the fire with inaccessible terrain, and ground crews will be building fire lines along the east side of the blaze over the weekend.

The Observation fire is 10 percent contained with 138 firefighters, six aircraft, and nine engines and machinery assigned to it.

Open burning is now prohibited in Ravalli and Missoula counties.

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