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Jul 10, 2012 4:42 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News

Rugged terrain issue fighting Chrandal Creek Fire

HAMILTON- High winds and dry conditions are creating a major expansion of the Chrandal Creek Fire burning on the Bitterroot Divide, with the fire increasing more than tenfold in size in the past 24 hours.

The blaze, which is believed to have started by lightning last week, had only burned about 90-acres by mid-day Tuesday, but strong, dry thunderstorms and high winds that pushed into the Bitterroot in the afternoon grew the fire to about 1,000 acres, burning in steep, rugged country about 12-miles southwest of the Lost Trail Pass ski area.

Firefighters still have no containment on the fire.

(photo courtesy inicweb.org)

Bitterroot National Forest managers told Ravalli County commissioners on Monday that the major problem with the fire is that's burning in very thick timber with limited access. That's presenting safety issues for firefighters, who are using the already burned area as their "escape route", taking steps to widen trail access into the fire zone that's described as a "sea of lodgepole pine".

"We'll get the firefighters into the burned area. That'll be their safety zone. And then they'll start working their way out to the edge where it's burned and then try to continue to work that edge until they get all the way around it," Bitterroot National Forest Fire Manager Rick Floch explained.

The U.S. Forest Service is treating the Chrandal Creek Fire as a "full suppression" response because of the potential for the fire's growth, especially this early in the season.

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