SEELEY LAKE - The Rice Ridge fire burning north and east of Seeley Lake has now burned nearly 156,000 acres.
Fire managers report that Wednesday's Red Flag Warning brought gusty winds over the fire area, but firefighters were still able to complete a six-mile burnout along Forest Road 477 west of Monture Cabin.
Helicopters dropped retardant on the south side of Road 477 to create a barrier to spot fires while the burnout was progressing towards the fire line. The burnout was successfully completed when the Flathead Hotshots finished hand firing about 12:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Fire officials report that the fire size remains the same because cloud cover did not allow an infrared flight over the fire last night. However, fire growth did occur around the fire area due to winds gusting to 30 mph.
The waters of Seeley Lake will be once again opened up to recreational activity on Thursday.
Staffed fire information is available at Cory’s Valley Market in Seeley Lake between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. as well as at the Blackfoot Mercantile in Ovando from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Anyone seeking shelter may call the Red Cross of Montana at 1-800-272-6668.
Evacuations orders and Evacuation warnings
There are 778 people assigned to battle the lightning sparked blaze that's burning north of Seeley Lake. Officials estimate that $41 million has been spent so far fighting the Rice Ridge fire.