Monday, September 27, 2021

Fire restrictions eased across Northwest Montana

| September 1, 2021 12:00 AM

Fire restrictions were lifted across much of Northwest Montana as recent rain and cooler temperature have brought much-needed moisture to forest vegetation and reduced the threat of wildfires, though some restrictions will remain in place, officials said last week.

Debris burning will remain prohibited until Oct. 1.

Private timberlands owned by Flathead Ridge Ranch, Stimson Lumber, and F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber are reopening to the public on Wednesday, and lands owned by Green Diamond Resource Co. and SPP Montana reopened last Friday. Campfires on those lands will remain prohibited.

Stage II restrictions — which prohibit campfires and place strict limits on smoking and other activities — were lifted Wednesday throughout Glacier National Park; the Kootenai and Flathead national forests; lands managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Flathead, Lake and Lincoln counties.

Restrictions were lifted last week on lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and in Sanders County.

A map and more details of the restrictions currently in effect can be found at

Fire officials said those spending time outdoors should bring the proper tools to extinguish a campfire, such as buckets and shovels to drown and stir a fire until it's completely out. If a fire pit is too hot to touch, they said, it's too hot to leave.

Lolo National Forest officials lifted some fire restrictions last Thursday after drastic improvements in weather conditions across western Montana.

Widespread rain over the past 10 days, cooler daytime and nighttime temperatures, and shorter daylight hours have increased fuel moisture levels and reduced overall fire danger across the forest.

Officials also lifted Stage II fire restrictions last week on the Flathead Reservation.

Campfires will once again be allowed in campgrounds and dispersed camping areas for the late summer and early fall recreation season.

Although the restrictions are lifted, officials cautioned that fire danger in the Lolo National Forest remains high and wildfires can still start and spread quickly.

"We appreciate and thank the public for adhering to fire restrictions over the past few weeks," Forest Supervisor Carolyn Upton said in a statement. "The recent weather has changed conditions for us considerably heading into the end of the summer recreation season. We ask that everyone continues to recreate responsibly while out enjoying the forest."

Fire officials ask that recreationists never leave campfires unattended and make sure they are cold to the touch before leaving.

ROAD, TRAIL and area closures remain in place in some areas due to ongoing fire activity and firefighting operations.

Thorne Creek Fire officials said fire behavior remained minimal last week because of damp fuels, but drier conditions may cause heavy fuels to create more smoke.

Firefighters planned to continue mopping up hot spots in the contained portion of the burn area.

The Southern Area Incident Management Gold Team transferred management of the fire back to Lolo National Forest crews last Wednesday.

Thompson River Road remains closed above Copper King while the Deer Horn and Beatrice Road system and the West Fork of Fishtrap Creek Road (including the campground) remain closed.

To date this season, 145 wildfires have started in the Lolo National Forest, including 81 believed to be human-caused and 64 believed to be lightning-caused.

Of those 145 wildfires, 137 were caught, contained and controlled at 10 acres or less.