HAMILTON - The Saddle Complex fire burning in a remote portion of Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness moved onto the Bitterroot National Forest on Sunday afternoon and grew to 1,018 acres during the day Monday.
The complex is comprised of two wildfires burning near the Montana-Idaho border about 20 miles southwest of Painted Rocks State Park - the Saddle fire on the Idaho side and the 27-acre Stud fire on the Montana side of the border.
According to Salmon-Challis National Forests public information officer Jesse Bender, both fires are burning in an area that has not been impacted by fire in more than 100 years. The Saddle fire is being managed for resource benefits, meaning it is not actively being suppressed.
Officials chose not to staff the Stud fire due to the high safety risk to firefighters in the steep terrain and dense fuels and the limited values threatened.
The fires are being managed as a complex by a Salmon-Challis National Forest Type 3 team in a joint effort with the Bitterroot National Forest. Bender said the only threatened structures are on a wilderness inholding with seven cabins near Horse Creek Hot Springs called Gattin Ranch.
Fire officials were forced to close the Horse Creek Hot Springs on Monday because of the fire's proximity to the campground.
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"We have a point protection strategy right now," she said. "Crews are going out ahead and preparing these areas to withstand fire, to be protected. We have firefighters on a hose out there. We are getting a little bit more wind on the fire than expected, so there have been a few uphill runs, but not any significant growth in the size of the fire."
On the Bitterroot side, firefighters are beginning to scout and prep areas of the West Fork Ranger District that require protection. The Stud fire is moving to the northeast toward Painted Rocks State Park.
At this time, there are no trail closures in effect but hikers are cautioned to be aware of the potential for such closures as well as the closure of roads accessing trailheads.
The fires burning in the Saddle Complex were ignited by lightning and flared up during high winds on Aug. 18 in the upper Horse Creek drainage, 23 miles northwest of North Fork, Idaho.
For updates on the fire, go to www.inciweb.org/incident/2496.