Heat wave bumps fire danger to extreme

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  • A farmer kicks up dust under dry conditions on Tuesday, August 7, north of Kalispell.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    An aerial view of the Davis Fire burning on the Kootenai Forest in Northwest Montana on Aug. 2. (inciweb photo)

  • A farmer kicks up dust under dry conditions on Tuesday, August 7, north of Kalispell.(Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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    An aerial view of the Davis Fire burning on the Kootenai Forest in Northwest Montana on Aug. 2. (inciweb photo)

Officials upgraded the Flathead Valley’s fire danger to extreme, the highest danger level, on Tuesday with a severe heat wave anticipated toward the end of the week.

According to Flathead National Forest Public Affairs Officer Janette Turk, no fire restriction accompanied the heightened fire danger thanks to the public’s help in preventing human-caused starts this fire season.

However, despite the low number of preventable fires, Turk encouraged people to consider self-imposed restrictions whenever possible by limiting unnecessary campfires and preventing potential sparks caused by vehicles.

The National Weather Service in Missoula on Tuesday issued a heat advisory, which is in effect from 3 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Friday.

Thursday and Friday will bring the hottest days of the summer. Temperatures of 100 to 106 are expected in some lower valleys. The forecast for Kalispell shows the high on Friday topping out at 100.

“We’re right on the verge of being just really, super dry,” warned Fire Service Area Manager Lincoln Chute. “With more heat, it accelerates the drying.”

Chute said local resources have their hands full with lightning-caused fires cropping up across the region in the past few weeks and cannot afford to take on any human-caused fires.

He reminded the public that the largest fire currently devastating California started from sparks thrown by a trailer. Sparks from a trailer also was to blame for a small fire on U.S. 2 in Bad Rock Canyon on Monday.

He asked for the public’s help in checking trailer chains and tires before heading down the road and minimizing potential fire hazards, including smoking in areas with dry fuels and driving or parking in dry, grassy areas.

“We don’t need fire restrictions if they can do that,” Chute said.

Lincoln County and the Kootenai Forest have been under Stage 1 restrictions since July.

Crews working the 524-acre Garden Creek Fire burning 2 miles northwest of Hot Springs on the Flathead Reservation achieved 5 percent containment Tuesday.

Around 165 fire personnel continued to construct a fire line, using explosives in rocky areas and heavy ground and air equipment to help suppress the blaze and limit growth.

The Davis Fire on the Kootenai Forest in far Northwest Montana was 20 percent contained and held at 375 acres. As the temperatures increase and humidity drops, firefighters are seeing many more hot spots along the fire’s edge. About 254 personnel were on the scene.

Crews made good progress on fire lines around the Tenmile Fire, assisted by helicopter water bucket drops. The fire burning off Highway 37 near Lake Koocanusa was 531 acres and 21 percent contained Tuesday.

A remote wildfire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness near Brownstone Creek, labeled the Brownstone Fire, ignited Aug. 2 and reached around 270 acres Tuesday.

The Flathead Valley and surrounding areas experienced moderate air quality Tuesday due to smoke, with conditions unlikely to improve this week.

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

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