Lolo Forest raises fire danger to ‘very high’

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A Department of Natural Resources and Conservation helicopter training session takes place with new Frenchtown Rural Fire Department District members on July 2. They are trained on how to call in a bucket drop. (Photo courtesy of Frenchtown Rural Fire Department)

The West Zone of the Lolo National Forest is currently in “Very High Fire Danger” as temperatures continue to rise into the 90s. Lush green grasses from a wet spring have begun to dry out, and fires can now start and spread easily, and “have a quick increase in intensity immediately after ignition. These fires can be very difficult to control,” said Lolo District Fire Management Officer Jim Ward.

The Superior Volun-teer Fire Department responded to seven human-caused fires and five lightning-caused fires since July 24, Ward reported. None of the fires exceeded an acre, and most have been completely extinguished.

Three fires on July 24 and July 25 were along Interstate 90, and there was a grass fire on Elk Lane off Diamond Match road on the 24th. There was also a fire on July 21 at Keystone Gulch, which burned approximately four acres. It is believed to be a rekindled U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn from April.

Superior Fire Chief Steve Temple said a helicopter was dispatched and quickly contained the blaze by intricately pouring water around the perimeter of the burn.

Other wildfires burning in northwest Montana include the Highway 37 Fire, which was 40 percent contained as of Monday and has burned 70 acres in the Kootenai National Forest. Also, the Reynolds Lake Fire has burned a little over a thousand acres in the Bitterroot National Forest located 35 miles southwest of Darby.

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