A good splash of rain, some cooler weather and a jump in relative humidity have cooled fire conditions enough to allow the city to reopen Missoula’s favorite backyard strolls on mounts Jumbo and Sentinel.
Missoula Mayor Mike Kadas rescinded his Aug. 8 order closing the city-owned lands on Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel and the North Hills after the Missoula County Fire Protection Association recommended downgrading the fire danger to high Monday.
“One of our biggest concerns has been citizen safety, particularly for hikers that may have been caught in a fire hazard with no way out,” said Kadas. “We realize the inconvenience the closures have caused Missoulians. However, because Missoula’s citizens were also concerned and abided by the closures, we have been able to avoid any major fires in Missoula to date.”
Fire restrictions also dropped a notch Monday to Stage 1 in much of western Montana.
Stage 1 restrictions allow campfires in developed recreation sites and prohibit smoking, except in vehicles, a developed recreation site or an area barren of flammable materials. “Hoot owl” restrictions, which limit most work in the woods to the hours between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m., will no longer be enforced.
“We got enough moisture over the weekend to get things started in the right direction,” said Ted Kolwicz, restrictions coordinator for the Southwest Montana Zone. “We’re hopefully on the downhill side of it now.”
But that doesn’t mean people should forget about the potential for wildfires.
“There’s always that tendency for people to think that after that first good rainfall that it’s all over,” Kolwicz said. “It’s really not. The first rain just runs off the heavy stuff. The fine fuels dry out quickly once the sun comes out again.”
“We really need some long-term moisture where everything gets wet every night for the danger to drop for good,” he said.
The Stage 1 restrictions will remain in place until there is significant long-term change in the fire danger. Fire danger remains “high” to “very high” in many areas.
The restrictions apply to all state, federal and private forested lands in Mineral, Missoula County south of Summit Lake, Powell, Ravalli, Granite, Anaconda-Deer Lodge and Butte-Silver Bow counties, a portion of Sanders County outside the Kootenai National Forest, and those portions of Flathead and Lake counties lying within the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The restrictions apply to any lands outside of designated city limits, regardless of ownership.
This past weekend’s rain and snow dampened the remaining wildfires in western Montana.
One to three inches of heavy wet snow fell across the 13,327-acre Signal Rock fire south of Skalkaho Pass. That lightning-caused fire has been burning since Aug. 9.
“The weather has given us the upper hand on the Signal Rock fire,” said Incident Commander Howard Carlson.
The fire is expected to smolder in larger fuels until later this fall.
The area closure on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is no longer in effect. The West Fork/Sand Basin Road, Sand Basin Road and West Fork Rock Creek Road remain closed for public and firefighter safety.
Fire didn’t spread on the Rockin’ or Selway-Salmon Wilderness Complex fires over the weekend.
The Rock Creek Trail west of Lake Como and Little Rock Trail south of Lake Como remain closed. All trail, road and area closures in the Selway-Salmon Wilderness Complex have been lifted, although people are asked to travel with care in areas that continue to burn and to expect possible road delays.
Find out more
For more information about closures on the Bitterroot National Forest, call 821-3907.
For more information regarding wildland fire safety, campfires and fire restrictions on Montana’s forested lands in southwest and west central Montana, people should contact their local Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Forest Service, tribal, fire department, law enforcement or Fish, Wildlife and Parks office. For more information about fire restrictions, go to the Web at www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/nrcg/restrictions_index.htm.