Hunt will go on despite fire conditions

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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advise hunters to take caution while hunting in current dry, hazardous conditions but announced Friday they will not recommend that the Fish and Wildlife Commission close hunting season.

“Because of widely variable conditions and different types of hunting scenarios across the state, that is a decision rightly left to an individual landowner, a block management cooperator, or a land manager,” said FWP Director Martha Williams. “If a private landowner or a land management agency such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management makes the decision to restrict or postpone hunting or other activity on their property, that is a decision we respect and accept.”

Williams went on to stress the necessity for hunters to take “personal responsibility” for preventing fires and keeping themselves, their property and the lives and property of others safe.

FWP issued the following fire safety precautions:

• Park vehicles on bare ground or ground completely void of vegetation.

• Drive only on paved and gravel roads.

• After leaving an area, wait a few minutes to make sure that a fire has not started where your vehicle was parked.

• Keep a fire extinguisher, water-filled weed sprayer, shovel or axe handy.

• Camp only in designated camping areas.

• Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.

• Be aware of fire restrictions in place in the area where you are hunting.

• Consider limiting activity until fire danger lessens.

Most of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area has been temporarily closed as of Friday due to extreme fire conditions.

Areas affected by the closure include all public entry on the Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA in Missoula and Powell Counties, south and west of Woodworth Road and the portion west of Montana 83, as posted.

Ovando Mountain remains open.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the closure will remain in place “until conditions improve” and will serve to reduce fire risks and minimize public travel through the area, which is currently under a pre-evacuation notice.

n The Sprague Fire perimeter is now estimated at 4,600 acres, more than double its size on Thursday.

An infrared flight Thursday night recorded a total growth of over 2,500 acres, with the majority of fire growth occurring to the north and east. Firefighters are bracing for another critical fire day based on the predicted weather.

Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open, but Avalanche Lake Trail and lake area is closed. Other closures in Glacier National Park include the Sprague, Snyder and Lincoln Creek drainages and associated trail, from Lake McDonald Trailhead to the west and Gunsight Pass to the east.

The fire is now closing in on the Mount Brown Lookout, but firefighters continue to prepare and protect this and other priority values.

n The Gibralter Ridge Fire east of Eureka now stands at over 6,500 acres and 27 percent containment.

Evacuation warnings and pre-evacuation warnings remain in effect.

n The Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake has grown to over 37,000 acres and is 18 percent contained.

A community meeting was held Friday night at the Ovando Elementary School.

n The Lolo Peak Fire remains at about 40,000 acres and 31 percent containment.

For up-to-date fire information, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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