Fast winds and warm temperatures helped spark new fires across western Montana and the Flathead Valley on Monday afternoon.
Near Stryker the Fitzsimmons Fire measured 60 acres Tuesday morning. According to Stillwater State Forest manager Brian Manning, two hot shot crews and two helicopters were fighting the fire, which closed the Stillwater River Road. Manning said there was potential for growth because of dry fuels to the north and east.
Further south near Tally Lake, U.S. Forest Service crews were keeping an eye on the Reid Divide Fire, which started on Monday afternoon and had burned just 1.2 acres. An initial attack crew battled the blaze located southwest of Whitefish Monday afternoon.
Also Monday night, the West Riverside Fire near Missoula exploded from 150 to 2,000 acres in a matter of hours. Dry grass and erratic winds quickly spread the blaze along Interstate 90 between East Missoula and Bonner and, as of Tuesday morning, 120 people from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, U.S. Forest Service and local fire departments were on location. Crews worked through the night trying to build fire lines to protect nearby homes.
While Monday afternoon’s weather helped fan new fires, three other fires in Northwest Montana remained relatively calm. As of Tuesday morning the Big Salmon Lake Fire remained at 2,800 acres and the Hammer Creek Fire was 1,350 acres. Both fires are deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The South Fork Lost Creek Fire near Swan Lake also grew little on Monday afternoon and as of Tuesday morning was at 1,215 acres.
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