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HAMILTON – Two new lightning-caused wildfires were discovered on the Bitterroot National Forest, both of them holdovers from the thunderstorm that swept over the area on Sunday evening.

The Clifford fire is estimated to be four acres in size and is burning on the Sula Ranger District five miles northeast of the East Fork Guard Station in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.

“We have four people on that one and we’ll be flying more folks in,” said Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay. “It’s remote enough that the only way to get people in is by helicopter. We’re also a little concerned about the weather event that is forecast for Tuesday evening.”

The National Weather Service predicted possible thunderstorms late Tuesday evening, and more thunderstorms with rain are expected on Wednesday.

The Eagle fire is estimated at six acres and is burning on the West Fork Ranger District four miles northwest of Spot Mountain in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, west of Paradise Campground.

“We have five folks on that fire and 20 more on their way,” McKay said. “We have to fly them into that one too.”

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A small amount of precipitation hit the 36,843-acre Gold Pan fire 35 miles southwest of Darby on Monday, which minimized fire behavior for a little while, but then high temperatures and winds dried out fuels and the fire became more active.

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Firefighters observed single and group tree torching and moderate spotting with short uphill runs, and crews started structure protection pumps later in the day.

The northern fire line in the Cayuse Creek area showed the most activity, and the eastern portion of the fire, which is burning in Montana, continued to back into the bottom of the Blue Joint Creek drainage and toward Jack the Ripper Creek.

Helicopter bucket drops were used to address the spot fires and slow the fire’s spread, but the K-Max helicopter on the Gold Pan fire was moved over to the Clifford fire on Tuesday.

“We haven’t had any big runs today or anything,” said fire information officer Marilyn Wildey. “It’s not as smoky as it has been other days. They saw a little column of smoke coming in the Jack the Ripper Creek area, so the fire is moving that way.”

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Reporter David Erickson can be reached at david.erickson@ravallirepublic.com.

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