MISSOULA — The Lolo National Forest protection area received over 300 lightning strikes from Wednesday night’s storms, prompting fire officials to be on the alert for potential new wildfires starts.
Firefighters have contained two small lightning-caused fires on the Missoula and Ninemile Ranger Districts.
Although firefighters were able to effectively contain and control these fires, the Lolo National Forest officials are reminding people to remain vigilant and cautious with the persistent hot and dry weather forecasted over the weekend.
- Bestwick Fire: Last night firefighters responded to and rapidly contained a lightning strike wildfire burning in grass and shrub in the Bestwick Creek drainage on the Ninemile Ranger District north of Interstate 90 and Alberton, MT. No structures are currently threatened by this fire. The fire is approximately 1.8 acres and fire spread has stopped. Firefighters will work today to contain, control and extinguish the remaining smoldering hots spots.
- Granite Fire: Last night, firefighters responded to the .2-acre Granite Fire near the top of Lolo Pass north of Highway 12. The Granite Fire was also caused by a lightning strike. An engine and firefighters are on scene today to contain and control this fire. No structures or recreation areas are threatened at this time.
Detection flights are being flown over the Missoula and Ninemile Ranger Districts focusing on areas where known lightning activity has occurred. The Lolo National Forest is currently staffing five fire lookouts on the Ninemile, Superior, Plains-Thompson Falls, and Seeley Lake Ranger Districts.
Fire officials ask that if anyone sees smoke rising from the forest, to immediately report it to either to 911 or to the Missoula Interagency Dispatch Center at (406) 829-7070. The fire danger remains listed at "high" on the Lolo National Forest.
Forest officials note that there have been 44 small wildfires on the Lolo National Forest to date --38 human-caused and 6 lighting strikes -- for a total of 15.8 acres burned.
Although no campfire fire restrictions are currently in place people are urged to remain cautious with campfires and to avoid idling hot vehicles near grass and follow campfire best practices.
Campfire Best Practices:
- Campfires in Montana cannot exceed 3’ high and 3’ wide
- Campfires are best lit in metal rings; rock rings with 2 feet of soil cleared of flammable vegetation are a second-best choice. If a rock ring is your only option, try to locate your camp where a rock ring already exists to lighten your impact.
- Campfires should never be left unattended. This is especially dangerous in the heat of the day, when winds pick up and light fuels dry out.
- A campfire isn’t dead-out until it is cold to the touch. Drown your campfire with water, stir the coals in the water with a shovel, and feel the coals with the back of your hand to ensure they’re out. This is the same procedures firefighters us during the “mop-up” phase of firefighting.
- Visit www.BeOutdoorSafe.org for more information on how to be a steward of public lands.