Lolo National Forest declares very high fire danger

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The fire danger was changed to Very High on Tuesday, July 30 due to dry weather. (Maggie Dresser/Mineral Independent)

The Lolo National Forest has declared very high fire danger following dry weather.

Very high fire danger means fires will start easily, spread rapidly and have a quick increase in intensity immediately after ignition, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“We use the Energy Release Component (ERC) which is the computed total heat released per area within the fire front at the head of a moving fire,” District Fire Management Officer Jim Ward said.

The ERC uses different information that doesn’t account for winds and fire trend and it indicates a more stable tool. Ward says there’s a historical analysis done to determine cutoff points and the general dry weather did not justify their decision alone.

The Superior Ranger District picked up three human-caused fires at the end of July, further indicating dry fuel beds. Rural Volunteer Fire Department Officials extinguished one outside St. Regis, the town of Superior and an abandoned campfire up the Little Joe.

“It’s just indicative of fuels drying out and the weather conditions,” Ward said.

There are currently no fire restrictions and debris burning remains closed in Lolo National Forest.

While no wildfires currently exist in Mineral County, firefighters continue to fight the lightning caused Beeskove Fire in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area north of Missoula.

According to the InciWeb, nearly 250 firefighters are assigned to the fire, which is listed at 337 acres and at 0 percent containment.

Yesterday, precipitation moderated fire behavior but pockets of heat within the fire perimeter were observed. During yesterday’s operational period, firefighters made good progress placing hoselays along the west and constructing indirect fireline by removing hazardous fuels and vegetation on the ground on the south and east sides of the fire. Firefighting resources were also utilized to assist with initial attack in the area.

Sunday, crews and an excavator planned to construct indirect lines from Blue Point south toward the 2011 West Riverside burn scar and adjacent road systems. Heavy equipment was used to remove hazardous fuels on the south and east with an emphasis on the powerline corridor. Fire resources remain available to respond to new fire starts in the area as needed.

Slightly above average temperatures, decreasing nighttime humidity recoveries and drier conditions are anticipated over the next few days. This will lead to an increase in fire activity and smoke in the area.

Currently, there are four Hotshot crews, two Type II crews, nine helicopters (three Type 1, three Type 2, and three Type 3), and a heavy equipment task force that includes seven pieces of equipment working to contain the fire under a full suppression strategy.

The area closure remains in place for the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. The main Rattlesnake Trail, trailhead and parking area was closed for road work beginning Monday and Tuesday. The main trailhead and parking lot was scheduled to reopen Wednesday morning. The closure will facilitate road maintenance and dust abatement in response to fire suppression traffic in order to improve recreational use.

Fire officials urge recreationalists on the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers as well as up Gold Creek to use caution when parking and driving in these areas due to the increased fire traffic.

Firefighters have demobilized the Moss Ranch Fire southwest of Ronan which burned more than 5,000 acres on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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