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Wildfire update

Afternoon winds, hot temperatures, and single-digit humidity pushed the lightning-caused Gold Pan Fire burning in the remote Frank Church wilderness in Idaho to 200 acres on Sunday. The fire is located 35 air miles southwest of Darby, west of the Selway River and Magruder Ranger Station near Kim Creek Saddle. It’s burning on the West Fork Ranger District approximately 3 miles east of Salmon Mountain Lookout.
The fire is burning in timber in rugged and steep terrain. Most of the growth on Sunday was on the north and east sides of the fire. There are no structures, remote cabins, or campgrounds in the area. An outfitter who has a temporary camp nearby has removed some of his gear and supplies. The fire has moved within a half mile of the Magruder Road Corridor to Elk City, Idaho. As of Monday, the road remained open, but traffic may be stopped if the fire continues burning towards the road. Contact the West Fork Ranger District at 821-3269 for the latest road information.
The fire is near numerous fire scars (old burns) including last year’s Salamander and Mustang Complex Fires. Because it’s in the Frank Church wilderness area that allows wildfires to meet resource benefit objectives, it’s currently being monitored daily by lookout and air patrol. For the latest fire information and photos visit www.inciweb.nwcg.gov
There are no closures at this time.
The Bitterroot National Forest recently increased its fire danger to ‘high’ as a result of our recent warm and dry weather. Forest officials are asking the public to be extremely careful when camping and to remember that it’s your job to properly maintain and extinguish your campfires. Temperatures this week are expected to remain in the 90’s.
Forest Service fire crews assisted Florence Rural Fire District with controlling a wildfire east of Florence on Sunday. The 40-acre Granite Creek fire was reported burning in sage brush and hay before fire crews got it under control. The cause is still unknown. Ground crews and engines were assisted by a Montana DNRC helicopter using a bucket to drop water on the fast moving fire.
Ravalli County is currently restricting all open burning including debris piles, and slash fires. Campfires must be attended until completely out and are restricted to established/constructed firerings.
Montanans can expect a mixed bag of water supply and moisture conditions as summer wears on, according to the 2013 Governor’s Report on the Potential for Drought and Flooding, released last week by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
Abundant spring rain has substantially improved growing conditions for grains, hay and other crops, helping to make up for below-average mountain snowpack in the Missouri and Yellowstone basins. Outstanding soil moisture conditions exist in the north-central, central, eastern and southeastern regions of Montana. Reservoir storage in the central and north-central regions remains excellent.
But the Montana Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee also rates the potential for drought-like conditions through August as moderate to high for surface-water uses east of the Continental Divide in the headwaters of the Missouri River, including the Beaverhead, Jefferson, Ruby, Madison and Big Hole rivers and their tributaries.
Likewise, headwaters tributaries of the Yellowstone River – the Shields, Stillwater and Little Bighorn rivers, along with Rock Creek and Red Lodge Creek – are projected to experience surface water shortages.
Counties at risk for low stream flows in the coming weeks include Park, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon, Yellowstone, Treasure, Musselshell, Rosebud and Bighorn.
West of the Divide, the potential for drought-like conditions through August is rated as low to moderate for surface water uses, with the exceptions of the Bitterroot and Upper Clark Fork river basins and tributaries. Affected counties include Ravalli, Deer Lodge, Granite and Powell, where stream flows are expected to be well below average.
Five counties west of the Continental Divide are identified as moderately dry: Ravalli, Granite, Powell, Silver Bow and Deer Lodge; two others, Missoula and Mineral, are rated slightly dry. East of the Divide, Gallatin and Beaverhead counties are rated moderately dry, while one, Madison, is rated extremely dry.
Six more counties in the headwaters of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers were rated slightly dry, including Jefferson, Broadwater, Park, Sweetgrass, Stillwater and Carbon. The remaining 40 counties were evenly divided between the near-average and slightly moist categories.
The report concludes, “It is important to remember that low stream flows, wildfire, and other impacts from dry and warm weather are not uncommon from mid-July into late summer in Montana in any given year.”

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