Update: Aug. 25, 4:30 p.m.
An inversion holding heavy smoke over western Montana is robbing wildfires of oxygen and preventing the sun from heating up ground fuels, helping firefighters make progress, fire officials said.
Residents near Essex remain under an evacuation advisory as the Sheep Fire that has burned just under a square mile remains about a mile from the town on the southern edge of Glacier National Park.
U.S. Highway 2 remains open with pilot cars, and the rail line through the area remains open as crews work to keep the blaze away from Essex and the transportation corridor.
A public meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex.
All fires in the Thompson-Divide Complex, which includes the Sheep Fire, were less active Monday than anticipated. The predicted fire weather watch with gusty winds did not materialize. Smoke lingered until late afternoon, keeping the fire cooler and less active.
Fire activity was expected to stay moderate Tuesday. Isolated thunderstorms are expected for Wednesday through Friday. Temperatures are on the increase through this coming week under an unusual high pressure, with highs predicted 80-90 degrees in the valleys.
The Department of Environmental Quality is reporting very unhealthy air quality in St. Mary and the Flathead Valley along with Frenchtown, Missoula and Hamilton. The air quality in the Libby area is hazardous.
Crews planned to do burnout work Tuesday on fires near Noxon and Clark Fork in northern Idaho. They won’t have to worry as much about the fires taking off because of the smoke, but it hampers air support for firefighters.
Evacuations are in effect along both sides of Highway 46 from mile marker 14 to mile mark 2.7. Other residents are on pre-evacuation notice.
The fires are part of the Clark Fork Complex, which consists of several large blazes on the boundary between north Idaho and Northwest Montana.
Evacuation notices were lifted for residents near the Sunday Fire, which has burned 60 acres near Stryker. The fire is 100 percent contained. In the Northeast Kootenai Complex, the Marston Fire has burned 3,300 acres and is 5 percent contained. It is located about 3 miles southeast of Fortine. No evacuations are in effect. On Tuesday, crews extended containment line along the fire’s western edge north and east into the Deep Creek drainage.
There is an area closure for both the Marston and Barnaby fires. Murphy Lake is now closed to the public for the safety of both firefighting equipment and the public, as helicopters dip out of Murphy Lake for water drops on the Marston Fire.
The Bear Creek Fire continues to burn in the Spotted Bear Ranger District in the mountains east of Swan Lake. It has scorched 20,450 acres.
Engines are patrolling the Gorge Creek Road #549 between Meadow Creek Trailhead and Gorge Creek Trailhead to mop up hot spots and remove hazard trees. Additional engines are patrolling Meadow Creek Road #2826 in the Jungle Creek area to assess fire behavior as the fire has moved down to the road.
Fire crews are conducting structure protection at support facilities for the Spotted Bear Ranger District north of the fire. Facilities at risk include the hydro-electric generating plant, road bridges and Stony Hill Electronic Site. Contingency fire breaks are being created with heavy equipment on Spotted Bear Mountain behind the Spotted Bear Ranger Station.
Wilderness rangers are staged at Black Bear Cabin in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to contact wilderness users and advise of alternate exit routes.
The Trail Creek Fire has burned an estimated 10,813 acres in the Spotted Bear Ranger District. It is located about two miles east of the Spotted Bear Ranger Station and near the Bear Creek Fire.
Firefighters are trying to prevent the fire from spreading south of the Spotted Bear River Road #568 or west toward the Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Structure protection has been installed at Silvertip Cabin, the Spotted Bear Ranger Station, and Spotted Bear Lookout.
Containment lines are being installed along the southwestern flank off the Flat Creek Road #5359.
A large section of trails are closed due to the fires. Click here to view a list of closures.
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