MTPR

roaring lion fire

Preparations are underway for a fuels reduction project in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. The Westside Vegetation Management Project and timber sale will take place between Lost Horse and Roaring Lion creeks on the valley’s west side.

“We’ll be doing some thinning, and those logs will be taken to a sawmill somewhere," says Darby District Ranger Eric Winthers. "There’s about 5 million board feet coming out of there – about 680 truckloads total."

The Roaring Lion fire burning five miles southwest of Hamilton, MT, July 31, 2016.
Inciweb

Forty-five acres of trees killed by a major wildfire last summer are slated for harvest. The Bitterroot National Forest today announced it’s moving forward on the salvage project in the Roaring Lion draining southwest of Hamilton.

3 Men Deny Negligent Arson Charges For Roaring Lion Fire

Nov 18, 2016
Roaring Lion Fire hours after it blew up on July 31, 2016.
Inciweb

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Three 18-year-old Hamilton men have pleaded not guilty to negligent arson. Prosecutors alleged they failed to fully extinguish a campfire in the Bitterroot National Forest in late July that days later sparked a wildfire that burned more than 13 square miles, destroyed 16 homes and led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For September 2, 2016

Sep 2, 2016
Distant smoke is visible from the Nez Perce Fire, located 11 miles northeast of Butte, on September 1, 2016
Inciweb

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For September 1, 2016

Sep 1, 2016
The sunrise over the Copper King Fire's Incident Command Post on September 1, 2016
Shawn Ostberg/Inciweb

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 30, 2016

Aug 30, 2016
Single engine air tanker (SEAT) returning to Plains, Montana airport from the burnout operation on August 29. SEATs have been dropping water in support of burnout and fireline construction on both the north and south sides of the Copper King Fire.
Inciweb

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 29, 2016

Aug 29, 2016
A Chinook helicopter brings water to the northwest portion of the Maple Fire over the weekend.
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 25, 2016

Aug 25, 2016
A firefighter on the Bierny Creek Fire near Lakeside, MT.
Patrick Record/Inciweb

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 24, 2016

Aug 24, 2016
The Berry Fire in Wyoming has caused Yellowstone National Park to close their southern entrance. Photograph taken on August 23, 2016.
Inciweb

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 23, 2016

Aug 23, 2016
View from Polson beach area overlooking southern Flathead Lake. Smoke obscures the northern Mission Mountains on the afternoon of August 23, 2016.
Nicky Ouellet

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 22, 2016

Aug 22, 2016
HB-481 would allow counties to have the initial attack authority on wildfires.
Inciweb

The latest news on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 19, 2016

Aug 19, 2016
The Maple Fire in Yellowstone National Park burns through a variety of fuels on August 14, 2016
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Last Update: 10:00 a.m. 08/19/16

In Yellowstone National Park, five fires continue to burn over 10,000 acres. Some, like the 191 acre Boundary Fire and the one acre Thumb Fire, are being suppressed with teams of smoke jumpers and other aerial resources.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 18, 2016

Aug 18, 2016
Aerial photo of the Roaring Lion Fire in the Ward Bowl area on August 17, 2016
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana's Current Water Supply and Moisture Conditions by County
Montana DNRC

Montana’s fire season has been ‘pretty benign’ so far and it’s not expected to get much worse. That’s how Harold Gemmell characterized it today to the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 17, 2016

Aug 17, 2016
A helicopter returns from dumping water on the Roaring Lion Fire on August 15, 2016
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 16, 2016

Aug 16, 2016
The Incident Command Post of the Roaring Lion Fire on August 15, 2016
Inciweb

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 15, 2016

Aug 15, 2016
Smoke becomes more visible from the distant Roaring Lion Fire on August 14, 2016
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 12, 2016

Aug 12, 2016
Last year's Copper King fire burned more than 27,000 acres outside Thompson Falls
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 11, 2016

Aug 11, 2016
The Fawn Fire in Yellowstone National Park on August 6, 2016
Jesse Page, Yellowstone National Park

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 10, 2016

Aug 10, 2016
A sign thanking firefighters and LEOs working the Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton Montana.
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 9, 2016

Aug 9, 2016
A map of the Roaring Lion Fire's growth.
Inciweb

The latest on wildfire news around western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 8, 2016

Aug 8, 2016
Crowds carrying thank you signs and balloons gather in Hamilton to show their support for Roaring Lion firefighters on August 7
Inciweb

The latest on wildfire news from western Montana.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 5, 2016

Aug 5, 2016
A helicopter drops water on the interior of the Roaring Lion Fire, August 3, 2016.
Mike Albans

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

A resident of the Bitterroot valley references an evacuation map of the Roaring Lion fire during a community meeting in Hamilton August 4, 2016.
Nora Saks

It’s been a difficult week for Bitterroot Valley residents whose lives have been interrupted by the Roaring Lion fire. Natural disasters can lead to feelings of frustration, fatigue, anger and indecisiveness.

The executive director of the American Red Cross of Montana, Diane Wright, says those are normal responses.

Rene Whalen grabs what she can of her important papers and photos while evacuating the home she's lived in for 20 years. Hundreds of homes are under evacuation due to the Roaring Lion Fire.
Mike Albans

The Montana Department of Revenue is reaching out to Bitterroot Valley residents who lost their homes this week to wildfire. The nearly 8,000 acre Roaring Lion fire has consumed at least 14 homes and other outbuildings.

In response to our August 4 interview with Bitterroot National Forest District Ranger Eric Winthers about the forest thinning project in the area of the Roaring Lion Fire, and the litigation over it, Forest Spokesman Tod McKay offered the following clarifications:  

Bitterroot Residents Applaud Response To Roaring Lion Fire

Aug 5, 2016
Nora Saks

Hundreds of people filled the Assembly of God Church in Hamilton last night to get the latest news on the Roaring Lion fire burning southwest of town.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For August 4, 2016

Aug 4, 2016
A wall of smoke from the Roaring Lion Fire on July 31, 2016
Inciweb

The latest on wildfires around western Montana.

Shortly after the Roaring Lion Fire broke out July 31st, charges and  counter-charges flew that a lawsuit or lawsuits had or had not stopped US Forest Service attempts to log or thin the affected area to reduce fire danger. 

I interviewed the Bitterroot National Forest's District Ranger about that on August 1st, you can read that interview, edited only for clarity, in its entirety below. 

On August 5th Bitterroot National Forest Public Affairs Officer Tod McKay sent me the following email: 

"I just want to clarify something that may have been a little confusing.  It was in response to your question on timing when you asked, 'so you guys were literally within weeks of getting out there and doing some treatment to reduce fire dangers?”' Eric (Winteher)’s response, 'Yes, the Forest Supervisor had signed the decision, and we were proceeding ahead, getting ready to get that going.'

Just a couple of clarifications on this.

  1.  We were a couple of weeks away from working on the contract to implement this project—i.e., not a couple of weeks away from on-the-ground thinning or logging. We expected to award a contract in September (before the end of the FY) and that work would begin in the winter.
  1. The lawsuit was filed July 26, 2016. Plaintiffs requested an injunction but none has been issued to date. In other words, we had no reason to, nor any plan to alter the Westside Project timeline at the point in time when the Roaring Lion Fire started.

We hope this helps clear-up confusion regarding the actual ‘start time’ of the project and are sorry that we weren’t more clear in the interview. "

We have also reached out to the attorney's for the litigants in the lawsuit, asking for comment, and have not heard back at this time. 

We regret any confusion caused by publishing incorrect information given to us by the Bitterroot National Forest, and plan to follow up with additional reporting on this story. 

-Eric Whitney, News Director, Montana Public Radio. 

Part of the Bitterroot National Forest that’s burning in the Roaring Lion fire southwest of Hamilton was just a couple of weeks away from being logged and thinned – both to sell timber and to reduce fire danger. But a lawsuit filed three weeks after the project was approved put a halt to it.

Timber sales and thinning projects can have an impact on whether wildfires start and their ability to spread, but don't necessarily guarantee improved fire safety.

Firefighters call the Roaring Lion Fire one of the worst they've ever seen. A common refrain among evacuees: The Forest Service should more aggressively thin forests to prevent fires and create jobs.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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