Mild weather unlikely to expand wildfires is expected this weekend, after a week of high temperatures, low humidity and a Red Flag Warning - or an indication that weather is ripe for wildfires to start and spread. That red flag warning for the western two-thirds of Montana is set to expire at midnight tonight.
Leeann Allegretto, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Missoula, says to expect temperatures in the low to mid-80s with low humidity for the next couple days.
"We certainly won’t see the mid to upper 90 degrees that we’ve seen last week going into this weekend, it’s actually going to be quite pleasant."
She said northern Montana will also be relatively smoke free if new fires don’t emerge in the area. Smoke in south and central Montana will be blowing in from the fires raging in California and Washington.
"It just looks like the thickest, heaviest smoke will be blowing in from I-90 south," Allegretto says.
Winds will die down over the weekend too. Allegretto expects these patterns to ease the stress of a particularly fire-prone weather pattern. Dozens of small fires have sprung up across Western Montana.
"Hopefully the crews that are working on these fires can make some ground over the course of the weekend."
A wildfire north of Hot Springs on the Flathead Reservation grew by about 170 acres Thursday due to high winds.
CT Camel, fire prevention specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, says the lightning-caused Garden Creek Fire is burning about 200 acres of remote forest, and is not threatening any structures.
About 40 firefighters are on scene, along with helicopters, engines and tankers working in terrain that Camel describes as, "Steep, rocky, rugged."
Camel says the fire is zero percent contained and some mountain roads in the area are closed, but the weekend weather will provide an opportunity to make some progress.
"After they get through today they should have a good shot at boxing it in," he says.
But meteorologist Leann Allegretto says the relief won’t last long. A major high pressure system that could exacerbate fires is coming through the area next week.
A new fire was discovered Thursday in the Tobacco Root Mountains five miles west of McCallister, MT. The 15 acre Virginia Creek Fire is burning in heavy mixed conifer fuels. According to Inciweb, "There are no area closures, however, recreationists and residents in the South Meadow Creek area should be vigilant and ready to evacuate if fire conditions warrant. Smoke will be very visible from Norris hill south to Ennis and for the next few days to come."
A community meeting is scheduled for Monday August 6, 2018 at 7:00 pm at the Community Protestant Church, 505 N Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT. Fire Managers will give a short overview and update of the Bacon Rind Fire.
Activity on the other larges fires burning in Montana was minimal today.