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Aug 31, 2012 12:50 AM by Mark Thorsell, Dennis Bragg - Montana's News Station

Bitterroot National Forest orders closures because of Mustang Fire in Idaho

DARBY - Worried about the spread of a massive wildfire north of Salmon, Bitterroot National Forest managers are closing some areas on the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

The lightning-caused Mustang Complex Fire (pictured) has charred nearly 200,000 acres up the North Fork of the Salmon and prompted Lemhi County officials to order some evacuations along the river corridor.

While the majority of the fire is on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, about 3,000 acres have burned on the Montana side of the Bitterroot Divide.

Today, the Forest Service enacted an "emergency area closure" on the West Fork Ranger District because of the risk of the Mustang Fire spreading north. Strong, gusty winds and more thunderstorms will increase that fire danger over the weekend.

The area closure includes Trails #650, #106 (Divide Trail), and Mine Creek Road #5688. Hughes Creek Road in Montana remains open along with Wood's Creek Road. Some of those areas burned in last year's Saddle Complex Fire. Access to Reynolds Lake Trailhead and Upper Blue Joint are also open at this time.

Bitterroot National Forest has already enacted Stage 1 Fire Restrictions, and with archery and other hunting season starting Saturday, are warning hunters to use caution with the extreme fire danger. Under those restrictions, campfires are prohibited outside campgrounds in areas without a Forest Service-approved fire ring.

Smoking is permitted only within an enclosed vehicle, building, or designated recreation site, or while stopped in an area cleared of all burnable vegetation at least three feet in diameter.

The Stage 1 fire restrictions do not apply to stoves using liquid petroleum or LPG fuels or to designated wilderness areas. All hunters are reminded to contact your local Forest Service office for up to date fire and closure information.

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