Lightning Storm Sparks 20 New Fires in Lincoln County

Davis Fire near Yaak had burned 150 acres as of Monday afternoon

By Justin Franz
A 30-acre fire north of Libby along Montana Highway 37. Photo Courtesy of Roby Bowe.

The Latest

—The Davis Fire has burned 150 acres near Yaak as of Monday afternoon

—No structures are threatened at this time

—Highway 37 Fire has burned 70 acres and is 60 percent contained 

Updated: July 31, 9:45 a.m.

A lightning storm in Lincoln County sparked at least 20 new fires over the weekend on the Kootenai National Forest and firefighters are bracing for a heat wave that could complicate their efforts to douse the blazes.

Many of the fires that started on July 28 were less than an acre in size, but the Davis Fire near Yaak had torched approximately 150 acres as of Monday afternoon. The Kootenai National Forest had previously reported that he fire was 1,000 acres but on Tuesday morning they had adjusted the size to 150 acres. A Type II incident management team was being deployed to take over firefighting efforts. Multiple aircraft were being used to help douse the blaze and additional resources were expected to arrive in the coming days.

As of July 30, the fires threatened no structures, but numerous road and trail closures were in effect. Spring Creek Road (FS 435) was closed from the Idaho border to Whitetail Road (FS 5932) and Pete Creek Road (FS 338) was closed to the Canadian border. The 7-acre Porcupine Fire also forced the closure of FS 93 from the junction of PS 337 to the junction of FS 7206.

The Kootenai National Forest entered Stage 1 fire restrictions last week. Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit campfires outside of designated recreation sites or smoking anywhere outside of an enclosed vehicle or building.

Officials said that they were aggressively attacking the fires because of the extremely dry conditions in Lincoln County and the upcoming heat wave. Triple-digit temperatures were forecast for parts of western Montana during the early part of this week, according to the National Weather Service. It was expected to hit 102 degrees in Libby on July 31 and the mid-to-upper 90s in other parts of the region.

Firefighters were also still working on the Highway 37 Fire, 4 miles north of Libby. As of July 30, the fire had burned 70 acres and was 60 percent contained. Officials have worried about the fire’s proximity to the former W.R. Grace & Co. vermiculite mine and the potential for it to release asbestos-laden ash into the air. However, the fire has grown little since it first started on July 19.

Fire managers in the Flathead Valley elevated the fire danger to “very high” on July 25. As the Beacon went print on July 30, Flathead County Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute said firefighters have been responding to a number of human-caused wildfires in recent days, mostly unattended campfires, but that so far they have been able to keep them under control.

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