Only snow can end Montana fire season, chief says; area fires updatedSource: Montana Standard
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Butte-Silver Bow County has dodged major wildfires so far this summer but Fire Chief Jeff Miller says there’s only one thing that will put an end to fire season in the rest of the Montana Rockies.
“It will take snowfall and I don’t think a couple of inches will do it because it (fire) is so embedded,” Miller said Wednesday.
Fire rules already in place in southwest Montana will be tightened Saturday to prohibit all campfires, and officials on Wednesday cautioned all hunters in the western part of the state to check fire restrictions and closures and take safety precautions.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said hunting seasons will open as planned, however. Montana’s upland game season opens Friday and the general deer, elk and antelope archery-only season begins Saturday.
Here are updates on area fires:
STONE LAKE FIRE
The lightning-caused Stone Lake Fire, detected around 2 p.m. Sunday about 15 miles southwest of Wise River, was still limited to eight acres as of Wednesday morning and was 25 percent contained. The fire is located high on the ridge in whitebark pine with rock screes nearby on two sides.
Smokejumpers jumped on the fire and two loads of retardant were dropped along with several buckets of water. Eight additional local Wisdom/Wise River firefighters were flown into the area, bringing total personnel to 26. Smokejumpers from the Ross and Grouse fires were to be moved to the Stone Lake fire along with for additional smokejumpers.
MOUNT HAGGIN FIRE
Some people in the area of the Mount Haggin Fire thought it was out on Wednesday because smoke was not seen for a while, but it was still burning and “puffing,” said Jordan Koppen, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
The fire was first reported Monday afternoon 1 mile northeast of Mount Haggin in steep terrain west of Hearst Lake in the Anaconda Range. It was still at 10 acres and 24 personnel were on the scene, along with helicopters, and containment was at 10 percent as of Wednesday afternoon.
Koppen said lightning is the expected source of the fire but it is still under investigation. He expected firefighters to be on scene for at least a week.
The Meyers Fire, sparked by lighting on July 14 about 25 miles southwest of Philipsburg near Moose Lake, grew another 1,300 acres Wednesday ato 23,603 acres and was still only 5 percent contained. Three helicopters and 285 people were on the fire, fueled in part by many standing dead trees due to beetle kill.
Despite expanding, growth was moderate Tuesday due to increased cloud cover and higher humidity. The fire moved into the old Mussigbrod fire scar to the south of the Hole in the Wall area. On other areas, crews hauled hose, pumps and equipment to make them available in higher priority areas.
The Frog Pond area remained under an evacuation order, while evacuation warnings were in effect for Moose Lake residents. There are also private residences in the area of Springer Memorial Park.
Crews based out of spike camps were working from both directions in upper Conrow Creek on Wednesday to connect a final portion of a containment line of the Conrow Fire, 7 miles northeast of Whitehall.
The 2,727-acre fire was started by lighting on Aug. 24 and was 65 percent contained, up 5 percent from Tuesday. Engine crews will continue mop-up actions along the containment lines and helicopters will support efforts with water-bucket drops. Full containment is projected for Sept. 6, a week from now.