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No Grass Creek blaze prompts closures; Murray fire nears containment

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The No Grass Creek fire east of Deer Lodge was reported 3:47 p.m. Sunday.

A closure order was issued Wednesday for portions of the Helena Ranger District as the No Grass Creek fire continues to burn east of Deer Lodge, U.S. forest officials said.

The area closure includes Kading Campground and trails around the Blackfoot Meadows. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail and Kading Cabin remain open. The closure will be in effect until Nov. 4, unless rescinded, officials with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest said.

The No Grass Creek fire, which started Sept. 11 in Powell County, had burned 1,003 acres as of Tuesday.

Helena Ranger District staff are using real-time and site-specific factors (e.g., terrain/topography, knowledge of fuel loading, weather trends and forecasts, etc.) along with current and future site-specific weather forecasts to manage the fire. Staff have developed a fire planning area that exceeds the current and probable size of the fire to allow for options for management actions as the fire behavior, conditions and location change.

“The No Grass Creek fire is located in a remote area in the Boulder Mountains with a lot of tree mortality, and it is neither safe nor effective to put fire personnel into the area,” District Ranger Kathy Bushnell said in an email.

Officials said fully suppressing this fire now would increase the potential of a fire burning under more extreme conditions (hotter, drier, windier), creating an even larger safety issue for future fire personnel and the public. Managing this fire strategically in this location, during this late part of the season when days are shorter and officials are experiencing weather that is trending toward cooler temperatures with more moisture, prioritizes safety for fire crews and the public.

Bushnell said the Forest Service will continue using a management strategy that protects values at risk, safety of fire personnel and the public, and benefits forest health, and will rescind the order as soon as it is safe to do so.

Incident Cmdr. Mike Kaiser said people will see smoke for the foreseeable future.

The Murray fire 12 miles southwest of Helmville was listed at 93% contained Wednesday.

Firefighters said they hoped to have the Murray fire, which was started by lightning Sept. 6, fully contained by Thursday. There are 101 people assigned to the blaze.

They cited minimal fire activity, cooler temperatures, higher relative humidity and precipitation in the forecast as aiding them in fighting the blaze.

The fire was in a steep area that had limited access, and initial firefighting was by helicopters and large air tankers.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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Assistant Editor/Reporter

Phil Drake is the assistant editor and reporter at the Independent Record.

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