Thompson Falls Fire Grows As Temperatures Rise Across the Region

Firefighters responded to three small fires in the Flathead on Monday

By Justin Franz
The Copper King Fire burns near Thompson Falls on July 31, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Latest

-Copper King Fire grows to 1,930 acres near Thompson Falls

-197 personnel assigned to fire

-Warm temperatures could lead to increased fire activity in the Flathead

-At least three small fires started in the valley on Monday

Warm weather across Northwest Montana this week could lead to increased fire activity, despite the rain that soaked the area late last week.

On Monday, firefighters responded to at least three small fires in the Flathead, according to Flathead National Forest Public Affairs Officer Janette Turk. Two of the fires were believed to be lightning caused. All three were less than an acre and are now under control.

Hundreds of bales of hay caught fire on Sunday near Somers blanketing the Lower Valley with smoke. The fire was contained by Monday.

A fire on the Swan Lake Ranger District grew to 15 acres over the weekend forcing the closure of nearby trails. The lightning-caused Piper Fire in the Mission Mountain Wilderness started on Aug. 5 and quickly burned 12 acres in the Piper Creek Drainage. National Forest System Trails 119 (Piper Creek) and 738 (Fatty Creek) are both closed.

The Copper King Fire remained Northwest Montana’s most active fire and as of Aug. 16 had burned 1,930 acres. The fire eight miles east of Thompson Falls along Montana Highway 200 is 20 percent contained. Nearly 200 personnel are working on the fire, including two hotshot crews and three helicopters. The fire is burning in steep and dangerous terrain making it hard to battle the blaze. Firefighters have focused on setting up sprinkler systems to protect nearby buildings and setting back burns.

Forest Road No. 56 on the west side of the Thompson River is still open but Road No. 9991 on the east side has been closed. Road No. 5587 and forest trails No. 345 (Todd Creek), No. 368 (Big Hole Lookout), No. 370 (Spring Creek), No. 372 (Munson Creek), No. 445 (Kookoosint) and No. 1268 (Bay State) are closed. The Copper King and Clark Memorial campgrounds have also been closed.

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center Situation Report, the Copper King Fire has cost $6.3 million so far.

Further east on the Flathead Indian Reservation, firefighters are still keeping a close eye on the Race Horse Gulch Fire that has burned more than 4,600 acres of grass since it was sparked by lightning on Aug. 5. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire Spokesperson CT Camel said about 50 firefighters are still working the blaze although it is mostly contained.

Warm temperatures are expected throughout the week and fire officials are asking the public to be vigilant to ensure they do not start any fires of their own.

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