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Lolo National Forest lifting fire restrictions on Thursday

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Daily Inter Lake | August 25, 2021 1:30 PM

Lolo National Forest officials are lifting some fire restrictions Thursday after drastic improvements in weather conditions across western Montana.

Widespread rain over the past 10 days, cooler daytime and nighttime temperatures, and shorter daylight hours have increased fuel moisture levels and reduced overall fire danger across the forest.

Officials will lift Stage II fire restrictions Thursday and meet to discuss lifting Stage I restrictions in the Scapegoat Wilderness (Seeley Lake Ranger District) in the coming days.

Stage II restrictions also will be lifted on the Flathead Reservation.

Campfires will once again be allowed in campgrounds and dispersed camping areas for the late summer and early fall recreation season.

Although the restrictions are lifted, officials cautioned that fire danger in the Lolo National Forest remains high and wildfires can still start and spread quickly.

"We appreciate and thank the public for adhering to fire restrictions over the past few weeks," Forest Supervisor Carolyn Upton said in a statement. "The recent weather has changed conditions for us considerably heading into the end of the summer recreation season. We ask that everyone continues to recreate responsibly while out enjoying the forest."

Fire officials ask that recreationists never leave campfires unattended and make sure they are cold to the touch before leaving.

Officials previously announced fire restrictions are being lifted this week throughout Glacier National Park; the Kootenai and Flathead national forests; lands managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and Flathead, Lake, Lincoln and Sanders counties.

More information on fire restrictions currently in effect across the state can be found at mtfireinfo.org.

ROAD, TRAIL and area closures remain in place in some areas due to ongoing fire activity and firefighting operations.

Thorne Creek Fire officials said fire behavior remained minimal on Wednesday because of damp fuels, but drier conditions may cause heavy fuels to create more smoke.

Firefighters planned to continue mopping up hot spots in the contained portion of the burn area.

The Southern Area Incident Management Gold Team were scheduled to transfer management of the fire back to Lolo National Forest crews at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The National Weather Service forecasted cooler conditions with more moisture beginning Thursday.

Thompson River Road remains closed above Copper King while the Deer Horn and Beatrice Road system and the West Fork of Fishtrap Creek Road (including the campground) remain closed.

To date this season, 145 wildfires have started in the Lolo National Forest, including 81 believed to be human-caused and 64 believed to be lightning-caused.

Of those 145 wildfires, 137 were caught, contained and controlled at 10 acres or less.

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