Two wildfires burning 30 miles apart on the Flathead Indian Reservation could be an ominous harbinger of August.
After a virtually smoke-free first half of the summer in western Montana, some 165 firefighters and support staff spent a fourth day Wednesday trying to get a handle on the Magpie Rock fire in the rugged Revais-Magpie Creek area eight miles west of Dixon.
Winds of 20 mph pushed the fire east/southeast toward Revais Creek on Tuesday as the fire grew from 400 acres to an estimated 1,200 acres. Heavy air tankers dropped retardant on the fire, along with other aviation resources, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire said on its Facebook page.
Ten smokejumpers, three 20-man Type II initial attack crews and a 10-man short crew, were on the fire that has closed roads but threatens no structures. Two helicopters, a pair of dozers and six type 6 engines were on hand.
The fire was reported at midnight Sunday into Monday.
Meanwhile, crews were diverted Tuesday to a 20-acre fire burning on the reservation near the Flathead River 10 miles southwest of Polson. The Horseshoe fire was 20 acres at last report and was burning in a Ponderosa pine and juniper stand along the banks of the river.
Forty-five personnel, along with three type 6 engines, five single-engine air tankers (SEATs) and a pair of helicopters were on the fire, which was burning actively with single tree torching and spotting.
The Mission and Jocko valleys were cloaked in smoke from the two fires. It’s something the region will probably have to get used to as predictions of above-average fire danger in August and September throughout western and central Montana appear to be coming to fruition. The National Weather Service forecasts nothing but heat through the first few days of August.
On Wednesday the Missoula office issued a heat advisory for the western valleys of Montana and central Idaho, in effect from noon (Mountain) Thursday until 8 p.m. Friday. High temperatures of the mid-90s to 100 are expected through Monday at least.
The weather service’s 8-12 day forecast on Wednesday called for below average precipitation but also below average temperatures throughout the region.
Most of the nation’s fire activity remains to the south and west of Montana.
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