Smoke predicted to settle back into valley

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The Sprague Fire burns in Glacier National Park, from Camas Road on Sept. 9. One bystander from Virginia described the scene as “looking through history,” as the open area along Camas was created by the Roberts Fire in 2003. The Sprague Fire was first reported a month ago on the evening of Aug. 10. According to the Incident Information System, nearly 14,500 acres have been burned. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Overall air quality across the Flathead Valley improved over the weekend and is now classified as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Localized smoke from active fires is predicted to settle in valleys across western Montana in the mornings through Wednesday due to stabilized air pressure in the area.

Breezy conditions are expected to improve air quality each afternoon, but overall it is expected to remain at “unhealthy for sensitive groups” until the end of the week.

Widespread rain and significant improvements in air quality are expected for the end of the week.

STRUCTURE PROTECTION efforts remain underway for Lake McDonald Lodge and the North Lake McDonald areas as the Sprague Fire, now calculated at nearly 14,500 acres, continues its slow growth. Firefighters have the blaze 47 percent contained.

Two Canadian CL-415 airplanes, also known as “super scoopers,” dropped water from Lake McDonald on areas of the Sprague Fire on Sunday. The two planes made 140 drops for a total of 250,000 gallons and made good progress on reducing fire intensity on the western edge of the fire. On Monday, favorable west winds resulted in a slow backing fire along Snyder Ridge and Mount Brown.

The evacuation order remains in effect from the south end of Lake McDonald north to Logan Pass due to the Adair Peak Fire located 18 miles north of West Glacier.

The closure includes the North McDonald Road. This does not include the Apgar area at this time. Logan Pass is still accessible from the east side of the park. The duration of the evacuation is unknown.

STANDING AT 8,900 acres, the Gibralter Ridge Fire showed some progression south along Williams Creek toward Locke Mountain on Sunday.

A pre-evacuation warning remains in effect for the Sherman Creek, Griffith Creek, Therriault Pass Road, Stevens Creek, Glen Lake and Sinclair Creek (south/east of West Road) areas.

Grave Creek Road and the Ten Lakes Recreation area are closed above the Grave Creek/Foothills Road junction.

The Caribou Fire has reached nearly 20,000 acres and 25 percent containment. Pre-evacuation warnings remain in effect for the West Kootenai area, including West Kootenai north and south of Tooley Lake, Spring Creek, Dodge Creek and Basin Creek.

The Liberty Fire located in the South Fork Primitive Area near Arlee has reached nearly 27,000 acres.

Closures remain in effect for the area. For a full list of closures, visit

The 13,300-acre Scalp Fire is being managed with the Strawberry and Crucifixion Creek fires by a Type-3 Incident Management Team based out of Choteau. The strategy for these fires is “confine and contain” due to their remote location.

Closures in the area remain in effect.

THE RICE Ridge Fire stands at about 135,500 acres and 8 percent containment.

The fire was “very active” over the weekend with aggressive surface fire in multiple locations producing short duration crown runs.

An Ovando community meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ovando Elementary School gym.

The evacuation warning for residents north of Tie Chute Lane affected by the 51,000-acre Lolo Peak Fire near Missoula has been rescinded.

Evacuation warnings remain in place south of Highway 12 in Elk, Bear and Graves Creek areas as well as west of U.S. 93 from Tie Chute Lane south to South Kootenai Creek Road.

Closure orders are in effect for portions of the Bitterroot, Lolo and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.

The Kenow Fire near Waterton Park in Canada traveled nearly three miles southeast along the Akamina Valley on Sunday and was approximately one mile from Akamina Pass as of Monday. The fire now stands at about 28,000 acres. Waterton Lakes National Park and Calgary Forest Protection Area south of Highway 532 are closed due to fire activity.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or

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