Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

New Montana Immunization Requirements In Effect This School-Year

Kids going back to school this fall may first need to visit the doctor’s office to comply with new immunization requirements.

Eric Whitney

The U.S. Forest Service team leading the attack on the West Fork Fish Creek Fire southwest of Alberton had a public information meeting in Alberton last night, and more than 200 people came. So many people came, they had to open the big garage doors at the fire station to accommodate the crowd.


The following information is from the federal government's InciWeb wesite, full post is here.

Eric Whitney

The following information was posted to at 8:55 a.m. Sunday, August 30 to the federal government's InciWeb site.

An evacuation notice has been issued for fewer than 20 residents of Lower Granite Lake Road, Granite Creek Road, Willow Road, Prospect Creek Road, Winchester Drive and Granite Lake Road. Officials ask all residents to be out of their homes by 1:00 p.m. today, August 29, 2015.

Air quality is poor across Montana due to wildfires burning in the western U.S.
Montana DEQ

Smoke levels across most of Montana spiked today, with air quality readings reaching "Very Unhealthy" in several locations, including Missoula, Great Falls, and the Flathead Valley; and reaching the highest warning level, "Hazardous" in Hamilton.

Meteorologist Kristen Martin with Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the smoke could get even worse before it starts to get better over the weekend.

flikr user Garry Knight (CC-BY-2)

The entire Northern Rockies will feel both immediate and long-term impacts of a powerful cold front moving into the region this weekend.

Meteorologist Genki Keno with the National Weather Service office in Missoula says the system hits western Montana Saturday afternoon. It packs sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles-per-hour with gusts of up to 40 miles-per-hour.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 28, 2015

Aug 28, 2015
A view of the Little Joe Fire from Thursday, August 27, 2015.

Stage 2 fire restrictions went into effect in the Missoula area today. The restrictions apply to public and private lands in Missoula, Mineral, Sanders, Granite and Ravalli counties, including the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests, BLM and state lands.

Sign greeting visitors to West Glacier Montana
flickr user J. Stephen Conn (CC-BY-NC-2)

When the Sheep Fire’s growth toward the town of Essex required evacuation of the town and surrounding area Thursday, residents were ready to go, and the nearby town of West Glacier was ready to help. An evacuation center was established just hours after Essex residents were evacuated.

Eric Whitney

About a hundred people came to Missoula’s Har Shalom synagogue this morning to be part of a protest against a new shipping terminal on the coast of Washington. Opponents say the terminal will cause environmental problems.

A view of the Sheep Fire on the afternoon of Thursday August, 27.
Courtesy Gregg DeNitto/Inciweb

Fire officials, evacuees and members of the community gathered in the gym of West Glacier Elementary School last night hours after the town of Essex evacuated.

More than 50 people filled the small gym as crew members on the Thompson Divide Complex explained how the Sheep Fire's recent movement made evacuation the right call.

Committee members tour the common room in the high security Assessment and Stabilization Unit, or ASU.   Up to four residents share the building.  The furniture is designed to resist damage.
Steve Jess

Fifteen residents of the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder will be moved to group homes over the next month, in part because of a staff shortage at the Center.

'Clean Coal' Development A Top Priority For China

Aug 27, 2015
The vice administrator for China’s National Energy Administration says development of 'clean coal' is a top priority for China.
Flickr user Erin Kinney(CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

China is not likely to give up using coal anytime in the near future. That was the message from a top energy official during a conference on clean coal technology this week in Billings.

Firefighters mop-up hot-spots on the Clark Fork Complex.
Bill Rosch/Inciweb

In far northwest Montana, the Clark Fork Complex of six fires continues to threaten homes near the town of Noxon. But fire managers now have a better picture of the challenges they face.

Gov. Bullock is hopeful upcoming talks will help clear the way to allowing Montana DNRC helicopters to work fires on federal lands.

It looks like there may be progress in the dispute between Montana and the U.S. Forest Service over firefighting helicopters.

The Billings Chinook Type-1 Helicopter drops fire retardant from the mobile retardant base onto the Sheep Fire, part of the Thompson-Divide Complex, burning near Highway 2 about 2 miles south of Essex, MT, Aug. 20, 2015.
Jonathan Moor/Inciweb

A mandatory evacuation of Essex and the surrounding area was ordered at about 2:45 this afternoon by the Flathead County Sheriff. Fire Information Officer Sonja Hartmann says the Sheep Fire burning just south of Highway 2 near Glacier National Park moved within a half mile of the town.

Structure protecton on the Bear Creek Fire.

Thompson Divide Complex
The Flathead County Sheriff's Department has issued a mandatory evacuation for the town of Essex, MT, threatened by the approaching Sheep Fire. Highway 2 is now closed from mile markers 176.8-185. The BNSF and Amtrack railroads in the area are also closed.

Flickr user David Pacey (CC-BY-2)

A Ravalli County doctor is facing homicide charges for allegedly over prescribing pain medications. Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen was arrested early Thursday morning at his home in Florence.

Ross Creek Cedars
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

On the Kootenai National Forest, one wildfire is burning within 1/2 mile of the Ross Creek Cedars, a popular scenic area home to massive cedars up to 1,000 years old.

Smoky air is Montana is forcing Montana's student atheletes inside or limiting their practices.
Josh Burnham

This year, fire season has collided with the school year all over the west, especially in northwest and north central Montana, where the smoke from blazes as far away as Washington has left the air loaded with particulates that make it unhealthy to breathe, forcing teachers and coaches to decide whether to send students out for recess or practice, or keep them indoors.

Griz football game at the University of Montana
flickr user MuddyRavine (CC-BY-NC-ND-2)

Plans to visit Missoula this weekend, but don't have a room booked yet? If so, you're either out of luck or you'll be paying a premium.

The Garden City will host not only the first University of Montana home football game of the season, but also the hugely popular River City Roots Festival. That admission-free, two-day music and arts event is produced by the Missoula Downtown Association.

Plum Creek Timber's Columbia Falls fiberboard plant
Katrin Frye

A Columbia Falls fiberboard production line will open a bit later than expected after a small explosion and fire shut it down late last week.

New Boy Scout Policy: Too Soon To Feel Montana Impact

Aug 26, 2015

Last month, the Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on gay scout leaders, but Boy Scout officials in Montana say it’s too soon to tell whether the national organization’s policy change will have much of an impact here.

The Marston Fire on the Kootenai National Forest

NOTE: We'll add information to this update today as it becomes available.

In general fires in northwestern Montana are being held in check by the thick layer of smoke over the area.

Montana’s Public Service Commission this morning voted to sue Century Link after rural customers complained of spotty telephone service.
Eric Whitney

Some rural Montana telephone customers have extracted a promise from CenturyLink for more reliable service. People in remote areas have long complained that their phones will go dead for days at a time, making it impossible to summon help in an emergency.

Blackfeet parade around camp before construction of the Okan lodge, 1908
Walter McClintock, photographer / Yale Collection of Western Americana

Most Montanans have been to Glacier National Park, although few of us know about what went on in that landscape before 1910, the year the Park was created. But now, thanks to a new book published by the Montana Historical Society Press, we have stories about the people who lived there.


It’s been another bad day for air quality across much of the state. Today Libby became the first location to enter the “hazardous” air quality category on the state Department of Environmental quality’s air monitoring website.

"It’s pretty bad out there," says Jennifer McCully, public health coordinator for Lincoln County.


Fire danger has prompted Plum Creek Timber Company to restrict some activities on all its western Montana properties until further notice.

Plum Creek Vice President Tom Ray says the company isn't allowing any camping, campfires, firewood cutting, smoking, fireworks or target shooting.

"Any of those types of activities are now precluded because it's just so dry. It's just extremely dry."

Peggy Miller, InciWeb

For the latest air quality information for Montana, click on this link to the state Department of Environmental Quality's wildfire smoke updates page.

The Sheep Fire continues to threaten Essex. It is burning about a mile south of Essex at this time.

An update from the Forest Service this morning says:

Sen. Tester urged the crowd to advocate for LWCF funding at an August 24 rally in Missoula, MT.
Josh Burnham

About 60 people rallied in Missoula's McCormick Park Monday afternoon to urge Congressional support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).