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Mustang Fire is Less Active – Smoke Continues

smokey sun
A sunset, shrouded in smoke. (KLYQ Photo)

The Mustang Complex of fires in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, south of the Bitterroot Valley, was much quieter so far this week, as humidity rose and some light rain fell on portions of the 336,000 acre forest fire.

Fire officials said that a helicopter flight over the northern edge of the fire, which has crept into the Bitterroot National Forest, showed almost no activity. And, along US 93 south of Lost Trail Pass, only a small section of road is under a 35 mph speed limit. Pumps and hose are being picked up from structure protection in that corridor.

The other Idaho and Selway-Bitterroot forest fires are still burning and pumping smoke into the Western Montana valleys. However, the air quality is slightly improved.

As of Wednesday morning, the Ravalli County Courthouse air monitor in Hamilton dipped down into the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” and then later in the morning, the particulate count returned to the “Unhealthy” level, while the cumulative 8-hour reading was “Very Unhealthy” and the 24-hour level was “Hazardous.”

State DEQ officials have said this is the worst air quality for the Bitterroot since monitors were installed in 2001. Unfortunately, no air monitors were in place during the massive forest fires in 2000, which might have surpassed this year’s particulate count at the height of that blaze.

The Sawtooth Fire is still burning to the west, into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, but all evacuation levels have been lifted west of Hamilton.

Up in the Swan Valley, the 4,650 acre Condon Fire has about 12 homes on evacuation alert, but no evacuations yet. The fire, west of the Bob Marshall Wilderness is visible from Highway 83. Crews have that fire about 40 percent contained.

Weather forecasters are calling for improving conditions as the temperatures drop, the fires calm down and weather systems approach next week.

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