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Garden Creek fire

The Garden Creek fire

Missoula’s air quality remained moderate on Saturday although it sure didn’t look that way, with a layer of haze pressing down on the valley.

Indeed, the City-County Health Department’s daily air quality report urged people to “use visibility as a guideline … and take appropriate precautions.”

“Smoke conditions can change rapidly and vary widely based on location, wind, fire flare-ups and proximity to fires,” air quality specialist Ben Schmidt urged.

The good news? Those conditions should change for the better. For sure, temperatures will be more bearable, after Thursday's record-breaking high of 104. Saturday's 98 degrees at 5 p.m. got fairly close to the Aug. 11 record of 100, set in 1996, but by Sunday, the National Weather Service's predicted high of 84 is not even close to the 100-degree record set in 1940.

“With Saturday’s predicted cold front and increased winds, air quality should remain moderate through Sunday with some good air quality mixed in if the plumes of smoke stay above us,” Schmidt wrote.

About that cold front. As in, “cold.” As Saturday sweltered, the front seemed slow to arrive. But the National Weather Service called for increasingly gusty winds throughout the late afternoon into the night, with a slight chance of thunderstorms.

While those winds could sweep away clouds, the Weather Service predicted widespread haze before 1 a.m., something that would interfere with views of the Perseid meteor shower Saturday night. Take heart, stargazers: The Perseid shower peaks at Sunday night, starting at about 7 p.m. Mountain time, according to, when Missoula's skies should be clear. 

Meanwhile, here on Earth, the weekend red flag warning continued to challenge firefighters on several wildfires around the state. As updated Saturday by Inciweb, the national wildfire reporting service:

The 50-acre Weeksville fire near Highway 200 seven miles northwest of Plains was started Friday by a mobile home fire that spread to the nearby forest. It’s being managed by a local Type 3 Incident Management Team out of the Plains-Thompson Falls Ranger District office. 

The trailer house where the fire started and one small outbuilding are the only structures that burned yesterday. Several other directly threatened structures were successfully protected by firefighters. 

Although no other buildings were threatened, several are near the perimeter and firefighters kept close watch Saturday.

The 2,052-acre Garden Creek fire near Hot Springs on the Flathead Indian Reservation was listed at 10 percent contained Saturday. A single structure that initially was evacuated was secured, and the residents allowed to return.

Crews will continue to work on the fire’s northern perimeter, using a burnout, and helicopters to cool hot spots along the control line.

The lightning-caused Brownstone fire burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness grew a little overnight, from 1,086 acres to 1,200 acres. A total of five personnel are monitoring that blaze.

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