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Entries in Bitterroot National Forest (33)


Lost Horse Fire continues to burn in the Bitterroot backcountry

USFS photo(HAMILTON)- Firefighters are still hoping aerial water and retardant drops will stop the spread of the 55-acre Lost Horse Fire, burning in steep, rugged terrain 10-miles southwest of Hamilton.

The fire was started by lightning and was first spotted late last week. Bitterroot National Forest reports the fire remained at 55-acres Tuesday evening.

Because the fire is in such a tough spot, fire crews haven't been able to work the blaze from the ground, and helicopters also can't land at the site safely to transfer crews and equipment. So efforts have continued to use water and retardant drops to try and prevent the blaze from spreading into denser vegetation about a quarter of a mile from the fire. 


Bitterroot National Forest asks for public's help with fire danger

(HAMILTON)- With an increase in fire danger, and the discovery of several human-caused wildfires over the past week, Bitterroot National Forest managers are raising the fire danger to "high".

Although the long, wet winter helped to forestall an early fire season, the hot spell of the past 3-weeks is changing the situation dramatically. Forest managers say small fuels, like grasses, brush and pine needles have dried out quickly in the 90-plus degree weather, raising the risk of a major fire starting. 

Plus, fire crews have already had to deal with several small fires in the past week, including some started by fires abandoned by forest users.

"The Bitterroot crews have responded to 10-wildfires already," noted Tod McKay, Bitterroot National Forest spokesman. "Unfortunately 7 of those were human caused, either unattended campfires or burn piles that escaped. We're just asking for the public's help."

McKay says its critical for campers to make sure to build fires only in established fire grates, and make sure any fires are "dead out" and cold before they leave. 


Forest Service rejects latest Bitterroot Resort proposal

(LOLO)- The Forest Service has rejected the latest proposal for skiing on the lower slopes of Lolo Peak, saying the plans still don't match with management goals for the area. 

Last spring, developer Tom Maclay pitched a new version of his proposal to develop ski facilities on the mountains southwest of Lolo, the third time he's tried to get the Forest Service to sign off on his plans. The first two were rejected because of conflicts with environmental management around Carlton Ridge.

In the request to "screen" the latest proposal for further review, Maclay said SUPPRB, or the Special Use Permit for Public Resort Benefits, would operate solely on National Forest land, using existing roads with shuttle buses to the lifts. He also proposed a lodge and restaurant on the mountain. 

But in a letter sent to Maclay, supervisors of both the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests say the proposal "isn't consistent" with the standards for further review by the Forest Service. 

The failure of the earlier proposals put the Maclay Ranch in foreclosure and the land remains up for sale with an asking price of $22-million. 


Storms slow Gold Pan Complex Fire

Bare Cone Lookout is among the structures that have been wrapped in fire retardant at the Gold Pan Complex Fire- USFS photo(MT-ID BORDER)- Storms have helped slow the growth somewhat on the Gold Pan Complex Fire along the Montana-Idaho border.

At just under 38,000-acres the lightning-caused fire that started in July remains the largest blaze in the region this year.

The Forest Service says thunderstorms that moved through the area Sunday caused more than two dozen new lightning strikes over the fire area, which spreads from the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness across the border into Montana. But fire managers say the cooler weather did help to limit some of the fire's activity.

Much of the renewed attention has been attempting to limit the fire's spread to the east, with helicopters making water drops in the Blue Joint Creek drainage into Jack the Ripper Creek. Crews also continue to build suppression lines as they attempt to use natural boundaries like the Magruder Road to keep the blaze from growing to the east. 

More than 270-personnel continue to work the blaze along with helicopters and other fire equipment. The Forest Service still considers the growth potential of the Gold Pan Complex to be "extreme". 


New fires added to Gold Pan Complex

Nez Peak Fire was spotted on Wednesday- USFS photo(HAMILTON)- Two more fires have been added to the Gold Pan Complex Fire, which is burning in the rugged backcountry of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The lightning-caused Nez Peak Fire was spotted Wednesday and is burning two miles from Magruder Road. It's estimated at 25-acres. The 1-acre Thirteen Fire was spotted Tuesday night and is eight miles south of the Gold Pan Fire. 

Helicopters have been dropping water on the Nez Peak Fire to try and limit its spread. The Thirteen Fire is inside the area that burned in last year's massive Mustang Complex Fire and isn't expected to grow. 

All together the Gold Pan Fire has burned more than 17,000-acres. Crews continue to try and keep the blaze within the wilderness boundary against more hot and dry weather in the area today.