Lindbergh Lake has been reopened to the public on Tuesday after firefighters decided they couldn’t use water-scooping planes to fight the Condon Mountain fire.
Fire spokesman Tom Kempton said a plan to use CL-215 water scooper aircraft on the 1,502-acre fire was scrapped on Monday because the terrain was too steep and high-angle for the planes to maneuver in. The CL-215 loads water in-flight by skimming over lakes and dumps it directly on hot spots in a forest fire. Retardant bombers like the P2V drop loads of slurry along the edges of a forest fire to slow its progress.
A firefighting crew of 113 will continue to use four helicopters for water drops in the Dog Creek and Condon Creek drainages where the fire is burning hottest.
On the Flathead Indian Reservation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes spokesman Curtis Matt said the Perma Ridge fire has held at 325 acres and has crews from the Fort Belknap, Rocky Boy’s and Crow reservations as well as a team of Lolo Hot Shots. The Valley Creek fire roughly doubled in size Tuesday to 27 acres and is 20 percent contained.
Flathead Lake state parks at Big Arm, Finley Point, Yellow Bay and White Horse have all implemented Stage I fire restrictions starting Wednesday morning. Big Arm, Finley Point and Yellow Bay parks allow campfires only in designated steel fire grates and smoking is prohibited except in enclosed vehicles or developed sites clear of other flammable materials.
All campfires, open flames and smoking are prohibited at White Horse State Park, but propane and LPG camp stoves may still be used.
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In the Seeley Lake Ranger District, observers continued to monitor the Wedge Creek fire 13 miles north of Ovando as it put up a tower of smoke visible from Highway 200. The fire is burning over about 420 acres in steep, hazardous terrain.
Lolo National Forest spokeswoman Anne Rys-Sikora said a helicopter made water drops to prevent its spread, but the area is still too unsafe to send in ground crews.
The Fenn Mountain Trail No. 88, Conger Point Trail No. 468 and parts of the Dwight Creek No. 414 and Conger Creek No. 403 trails are closed because of the Wedge Creek fire.
The Meadow Creek fire 3 miles east of Coopers Lake is about 80 percent contained at 224 acres and should have its remaining 20-person crew and two helicopters reassigned by Wednesday or Thursday.
The Elbow Pass complex of fires in the Bob Marshall Wilderness grew 41 acres on Monday to a total of 19,712 acres. Helicopters dropped water along the South Fork of the Sun River.
The Benchmark Road remains open, but fire managers have closed the area beginning half a mile west of the road’s end, along with numerous trails. Vehicles parked at the Benchmark trailhead are at risk from future fire activity, according to fire spokesman Brian LaMoure.