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Crews battling forest fire in western Montana

Posted at 2:15 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 16:15:09-04

HAMILTON – Crews are battling a pair of lightning-sparked blazes that are burning in remote locations on the Bitterroot National Forest.

The fires are burning on the West Fork Ranger District and no structures are threatened or closed at this time, according to Forest spokesman Tod McKay.

The Reynolds Lake Fire was estimated at 11 acres on Wednesday morning but McKay said it has grown substantially after being pushed by gusty winds. It’s located on the border of the Bitterroot and Salmon-Challis National Forest near Reynolds Lake Trailhead — about 10 miles southwest of Painted Rocks Lake. 

McKay reports 30 firefighters are assigned to the Reynolds Lake Fire, which is being actively suppressed. Multiple aircraft are assisting with bucket work and retardant drops to help control the spread.

One 20-person Hotshot Crew and a 20-person (Type 2) initial attack crew have been ordered and are in route to the Reynolds Lake Fire. Firefighters are working to construct line around the perimeter and helicopters are using buckets to drop water in key locations to check fire spread, according to McKay.

The fire is burning in remote and rugged terrain, in heavy fuels with dead standing and downed timber.  McKay noted numerous snags are in the area, which presents a safety threat to firefighters in high wind situations.        

Additionally, the fire danger has now been hiked to “high” on the Bitterroot National Forest. Open burning was closed last week in Ravalli County due to increased fire risks. However, camp and cooking fires are still allowed.  

Firefighters have responded to four lightning wildfires this summer on the Bitterroot National Forest.