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Magruder Road reopens to public after rain on Gold Pan Complex fires

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Heavy rains subdued the Gold Pan Complex fires enough to allow public traffic back on the Magruder Corridor Road, fire officials announced on Friday.

But the rainfall, and forecasts of additional thunderstorms across western Montana, mean burn areas could see mudslides, toppled trees and even reignited burns if the weather turns hazardous. The fire has burned 42,569 acres, mostly in the Frank Church Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border.

“In the last two days, they’ve received almost an inch of rain at fire camp,” Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay said Friday. “It’s calmed down a lot. If it gets up to 85 degrees next week, it could rear right back up, but its calm now.“

Mckay said the area between Nez Perce Pass and Salmon Mountain remains an active fire area along the Magruder Road. Firefighting equipment may still be active in the corridor, so motorists need to travel with caution. No cellphone service exists in the area.

Small fire crews wrapped up five lightning-caused fires from a Wednesday thunderstorm in the Bitterroot on Thursday, McKay said. Initial attack served to extinguish two other small fires on the Lolo National Forest.

However, smoke could continue to be a skyline factor as U.S. Forest Service officials in Idaho begin a series of prescribed burns in the Panhandle area. Idaho Panhandle National Forest spokesman Jason Kirchner said details about burn schedules and locations can be found on the forest’s Prescribed Fire website or northidahorxfire.com.

​Reach the Missoulian newsroom at @missoulian, at newsdesk@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5240

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