Montana, Idaho Forests Hit by Lightning
The morning lightning storms Wednesday included over 350 lightning strikes in the national forests of Idaho and Montana, resulting in 25 new fires in Idaho's Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and 8 small fires in the Stevensville Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Foreset. Nez Perce firefighters have suppressed 18 of the lightning-caused fires. The Double fire (photo above) is in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness near May Lake at Bailey Mountain. It is 5 acres in size.
The Bitterroot National Forest reported fires from this week's lightning storms near Lookout Trail Road and Sheafman Creek are out. Fires at McCall Creek, Packbox Pass and Sky Pilot have firefighters at the scene. However, two inaccessible fires in Sweathouse Creek are in the Gash Creek fire scar of 2006, only able to be attacked by air. However, they have limited fuel to burn. Meanwhile, a person using fireworks started a fire up the West Fork, which was quickly extinguished by Forest Service crews. The Bitterroot National Forest has had 36 small wildfires so far this season - 25 lightning-caused and 11 caused by people (mainly abandoned campfires).
All 10 lookouts on the Bitterroot forest are staffed and air patrols are looking for holdover lightning-caused fires. Fire danger on the Bitterroot is "Very High" and danger on the Nez Perce-Clearwater is "Extreme."
Some of the smoke and haze in the valley is coming from the 722-acre Shissler Fire in Idaho's Red River Ranger District, but the rest is coming on winds from northern California. Air quality is still rated "Good" in Hamilton and Missoula but is rated "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" in Dillon, with smoke from the Bear Creek Fire at Lemhi Pass, which is over 7,000 acres in size.