Smoke and more smoke. The fires to the west of Montana are sending huge amounts of smoke and occasionally some ash into the valleys of Western Montana, including the Bitterroot Valley. Air quality has been moving into the "Unhealthy" level as the smoke from Washington and Oregon settles into our area. Add to that a report of relative humidity as low as 5 percent and the Bitterroot National Forest danger rating headed back to "Very High." Weather forecasters expect no change in the current weather pattern until Friday, at the earliest, with a cold front approaching - and maybe some rain. If you have breathing problems, stay inside in an air-filtered area.

Mark Wilson, Bitterroot National Forest Fire Manager said no new fires have been reported, but the 12-Mile fire in the Lost Horse drainage has grown slightly over the weekend. The 25-acre blaze hasn't moved from a rough cliff area (photo below), but wind gusts could cause growth. The hazy conditions have stopped fixed wing aircraft from flying, but helicopters are dumping water on hot spots. Wilson also said abandoned campfires are still a problem. In some instances, he said people have attempted to put them out, but failed to complete the duty, and the campfires continue to burn. Make sure your campfire is out. Drown it. And a reminder for all of Ravalli County, there is no open burning allowed, especially during this extremely dangerous fire danger period.

Forest fires in Idaho include the Double Fire in the Moose Creek Ranger District of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. It has grown to at least 600 acres. Near the Powell Ranger Station, the Beaver Fire is now over 1,464 acres and the Marion Fire is over 378 acres. Southwest of the Bitterroot, the Shissler Fire near Elk City made a large jump this weekend and is now over 6,000 acres. Farther south in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the Porphyry Fire is 7,200 acres and south of that fire is the 6,668-acre Buck Fire on the Challis National Forest.

12 mile fire
12 Mile Fire up the Lost Horse. (Bitterroot National Forest-provided photo)

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