DNRC, Forest Service Respond to Flathead Lightning Fires

first_img Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and U.S. Forest Service crews were fighting a handful of small, lightning-caused fires in Northwest Montana on Tuesday afternoon, according to Christine Lawrence, Public Information Officer for the DNRC in Kalispell. “Fire season is here,” Lawrence said. “We went from quiet activity to 10 fires in 48 hours.” According to Lawrence, fires were sparked at Haywire Gulch, Browns Meadow, Granger Flats and Wild Bill Saddle. All of the fires were less than 1 acre in size and Lawrence said they did not pose a threat to public safety. As of noon Tuesday, five of the fires had been contained. Lawrence said crews were aggressively attacking the other fires and she was confident that they would be contained in a matter of hours. Lawrence warned of drying ground fuels, which would only aid lightning-sparked fires. Bryan Henry, a meteorologist with the Northern Rockies Coordination Center in Missoula, said that because of a long winter and wet spring, vegetation was taking longer to dry. “Our fuels out there are dry, but not critically dry,” Henry said. “With the ridiculous snowpack and wet spring, the ground soil is still wet.” Wet ground could prevent fires from rapidly spreading, Henry said, an important deterrent considering the number of lightning strikes that have occurred this summer. Henry said that in the month of July there were almost 1 million lightning strikes in the Northern Rockies. “That’s a lot of lightning no matter how you slice it,” he said. Henry said that current weather patterns for the next week are likely to bring more lightning. That could lead to an active month for fire starts, although how much those fires will burn is unknown. “I think we’ll see an active August, but growth will be limited,” he said. Henry said if fires were to start in areas affected by beetle kill, like along the Continental Divide, it may be a different story. “If the fire gets into to beetle kill it can really take off,” he said. “It’ll be difficult to stop.” Lightning also caused a 40-acre fire in the Helena National Forest, east of Helena. As of Tuesday morning, 50 firefighters from the Forest Service were on site fighting the fire, which was likely to be contained with the help of cooler temperatures and rain. Emaillast_img

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