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Montana Wildfire News

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Active Montana wildfires: Inciweb Montana.

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Missoula County’s fire danger bumped up a notch Monday from "moderate" to "high."
U.S. Forest Service

Missoula County’s fire danger bumped up a notch Monday from "moderate" to "high."

A strong high pressure system has parked itself over Montana which will lead to some of the hottest, driest conditions seen so far this year. It’s already really hot and Montana’s forest fuels are getting dry and crunchy.

While watching an evening newscast about Montana wildfires, I saw some TV footage of deer and elk fleeing burning areas and listened to speculation by the newscasters of how many animals might be killed during the fires. I was reminded of watching the movie Bambi as a child, and fearing for Bambi’s life as he fled that fictional wildfire many decades ago.

So how devastating are wildfires to deer and elk? Can most of them outrun or outflank a rapidly spreading fire? And what about the survivors when they return to a burned forest? Isn’t their habitat destroyed?

Rising Temperatures, Drought Conditions Usher In Fire Season In Montana
U.S. Drought Monitor

Fire season is off to a slow start this year, but state officials say drought conditions in eastern Montana and rising temperatures across the state could change that.

Tanker 10 on fire duty.
Courtesy Neptune Aviation/Dan Stijovich

Neptune Aviation’s red-tailed Tanker 10 flew hundreds of firefighting missions all over the United States. Tuesday it embarked on its final mission: being placed at the entrance of the Missoula International Airport to greet incoming passengers.

Neptune CEO Ron Hooper says it’s an honor to have that twin-propeller aircraft in such a prominent place:

Ceanothus: Life From The Kiss Of Fire

May 30, 2017
Ceanothus velutinus, a plant with more common names than zip codes in California.
Walter Siegmund (CC-BY-SA-3)

Thirty-plus years ago when I was studying wildlife management at Oregon State University, we learned that Ceanothus was a highly preferred forage plant for deer and elk during the winter. I knew that Ceanothus was the genus name of a large group of western shrubs and I even knew enough to recognize a few of the individual species back then.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
PD

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Congress this week that American farmers are facing plenty of challenges and deep uncertainty.

“Our farm economy is down by about a 50-percent drop in net income from where it was in 2013 as you all were contemplating the ’14 Farm Bill" Perdue says. "We’ve got several members who – particularly younger farmers – have levered up in this situation where their revenue is not supporting their debt structure and they’re in some dire straits.” 

Gold Butterfly Project vicinity map.
Bitterroot National Forest

The Bitterroot National Forest is holding an open house this evening to get public input on a project aimed at reducing wildfire risk near Corvallis.

"We have mature stands of timber that are kind of reaching the end of their lifespan. They just need a little thinning to encourage additional growth or to reduce the risk of future insect and disease outbreaks and to improve their health and vitality,” says Gold Butterfly Project Team Leader Marilyn Wildey.

Wet Weather Hampers Prescribed Burns In Montana

May 8, 2017
A firefighter works to control a blaze at the edge of back-burn on a private ranch near the Roaring Lion Fire, August 3, 2016.
Mike Albans

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A snowy winter and a wet spring in western Montana are making it hard to conduct prescribed burns to reduce the risk of wildfires later in the year, federal forest managers said.

Fire experts are predicting a slower than normal start to wildfire season in Montana this year, but by July and August the potential jumps up to normal, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, Idaho.

Fire experts are predicting a slower-than-normal start to wildfire season in Montana this year, according to a Northern Rockies fire season outlook released Monday afternoon.

The Roaring Lion Fire near Hamilton on August 1, 2016
Inciweb

For Flathead Valley resident Charlotte Chrisman, wildfire on her private land is not a question of if, but when.

"It's like, you know, have you hit a deer? Well not yet," Chrisman says.

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

Larry Anderson arrived early for a meeting last Friday morning at the Flathead National Forest supervisor’s office in Kalispell. It was unseasonably sunny and warm outside, but he’d spend the next three hours listening to presentations in a conference room because of something that happened last summer.

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

Fire season is, for many people, a single season. But a team of resource managers and homeowners in the Flathead Valley is trying to change that.

FireSafe Flathead is a group of firefighters, emergency planners, state and federal resource managers, and homeowner association members who meet monthly to plan a more proactive, community-based response to the threat of wildfire.

Bill Would Allow Counties To Make Initial Attack On Wildfires

Feb 17, 2017
HB-481 would allow counties to have the initial attack authority on wildfires.
Inciweb

A bill entering the Montana House would allow counties to have the initial attack authority on wildfires if they believe they can move quicker, or have more resources than whoever is in charge of the land.

Job seekers with the U.S. Forest Service got a bit of good news today: the agency has been cleared to hire seasonal temporaries.

Seasonal temporaries could be considered the "face of the Forest Service" — they're trail maintenance workers, engineers, backcountry rangers, says Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northwest Region of the Forest Service.

A Neptune Aviation air tanker arrives in Santiago, Chile.
Courtesy Neptune Aviation/Dan Snyder.

A Montana aviation company has joined an international effort to suppress catastrophic wildfires in Chile. The Chilean wildfires have killed 11 and caused over $300 million in damage since they started burning in earnest about three weeks ago.

While they’re mostly under control right now, the wildfires are being described as the worst in the country’s history. And that’s how Missoula-based Neptune Aviation got involved according to company CEO Ron Hooper.

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.

Eric Whitney

On Wednesday night, 75 people crowded into the Swan Lake Club House to hear a first of its kind in Montana proposal that would transfer management of some National Forest land to the state.

The body of a veteran Blackfeet firefighter has been returned to Montana from North Carolina.

Nov. 30 marks the end of open burning season in Montana.
Karl Nousiainen

Wednesday marks the end of open burning season in Montana. 

Dozens of fires burning in the Rocky Mountains in Montana were detected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on the afternoon of August 19, 2003. In the image, fire locations have been marked in yellow. The fi
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Last week a senior advisor to President-elect Trump said funding for NASA Earth sciences work should be cut dramatically, or just ended. Former Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Walker made those comments in the Guardian newspaper.

For perspective on what that would mean, Amy Martin talked to the chairman of the Earth Science Subcommittee for NASA’s Advisory Council. The chairman is Steve Running, who is a regent’s professor of ecology at the University of Montana. She asked Running if big cuts to NASA Earth sciences have been proposed in the past.

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.

Live and beetle killed trees in the Helena National Forest.
Steve Jess

Local environmental groups, timber industry representatives, and state and federal agencies will meet in Missoula this week to talk about collaboration. The two-day workshop is put on by the Western Governors' Association.

Smoke and flames from the Berry Fire hit Highway 89 on September 11, 2016
Inciweb

The Berry Fire in Grand Teton National Park has increased rapidly in activity, forcing a closure on Highway 89 between the Yellowstone South Entrance and Lizard Creek Campground.

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.

Smoke from the Copper King Fire, north of Thompson Falls, MT, August 1, 2016.
inciweb

Montana’s average annual firefighting costs range from $15 to $20 million. This year’s tab may end up costing about half that if conditions don’t get much worse.

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.

Governor Steve Bullock announced today he’s committing $1.5 million of state fire suppression funds for various forest restoration and fuel reduction projects.
Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Governor Steve Bullock announced today he’s committing $1.5 million of state fire suppression funds for various forest restoration and fuel reduction projects.

Montana State Forester Bob Harrington says this is a great use of that money:

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
A Red Flag Fire Weather Warning is posted for Tuesday afternoon for most of northwest and west-central Montana.
National Weather Service Missoula

A Red Flag Fire Weather Warning is posted for Tuesday afternoon for most of northwest and west-central Montana.

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