Fire activity continues to pick up across the state, and two of the largest blazes are burning in western Montana.
The Seepay Fire on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Perma has ballooned to 600 acres, according to fire managers. The fire is burning in high elevation in lodgepole pine and subalpine fir. Ron Swaney with the CSKT Fire Management Division said nearly 60 personnel are fighting the blaze.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team will take over the fire Aug. 12, Swaney said.
Crews were presently not attacking the fire directly due to firefighter safety, according to Rob McDonald with the CSKT.
There are not any impending threats to houses, Swaney said. But the tribe has closed four roads in the area: Seepay Creek Road; Vanderburg Creek Road; Magpie Creek Road; and Three Lakes Peak trailhead.
The Seepay Fire was sparked by lightning July 17. It is burning roughly six miles south of Perma, and 1.5 miles northwest of Three Lakes Peak in the Upper Seepay Creek roadless area. The terrain is remote and very steep, with heavy downed, dead material under thick beetle-killed trees.
The Thompson River Complex, burning in the mountains near Thompson Falls, reached 781 acres on Aug. 11. The complex includes two separate large fires: the Koo Koo Sint Fire and the Spruce Fire. The Koo Koo Sint Fire is located north of Highway 200, approximately 6 miles east of Thompson Falls. The Spruce Fire is roughly 6 miles northeast of Thompson Falls in the Spruce Creek drainage.
In addition, a holdover fire from recent lightning storms was located recently approximately 2.5 miles north of the Spruce Fire. That fire, being called the Marmot Fire, will also be managed under the Thompson River Complex.
A Type 2 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, under the lead of Rick Kusicko, is managing the complex with 280 personnel. The entire complex is estimated at 25 percent containment.
Crews do not expect any significant fire growth this week.
Weather could benefit fire crews this week, as the National Weather Service issued a warning Aug. 11 about active rainstorms headed this way. The Northern Rockies are expected to receive storms this week that could produce damaging winds and potentially heavy rain. Thunderstorms could arrive Thursday and later in the week. Cooler temperatures could arrive by Aug. 15.
Fire danger is “very high” in much of western Montana, and stage 1 restrictions are in effect for portions of Lake County within the reservations, and Sanders County within the Lolo National Forest. The restrictions prohibit the building of a campfire in locations besides Finley Point, Big Arm and Thompson Falls state parks. LP gas or propane stoves that can be turned on and off are allowed. Smoking is also prohibited in outdoor areas besides an enclosed vehicle, a developed recreation site or in an area with at least three feet of cleared, non-flammable material.
Though the Flathead Valley has largely avoided high activity, smoke continues to linger from Washington, where 12 large wildfires are actively burning in the central and eastern parts of the state. Fire officials report there are more than 1,000 homes and structure in danger.
In Idaho, the Big Cougar Fire has grown to 65,000 acres. The massive blaze is 20 miles south of Lewiston, and is burning in timber and grass.
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