By Tracy McNew
As of Sunday, August 26 the Gold Hill Fire located 13 miles north of Libby was only 1% contained according to a USFS press release.
The fire started on August 11, caused by lightening, and it has burned 3,178 acres. There are a reported 335 personnel working to contain the blaze, and pre-evacuations have been implemented on Pipe Creek Road between mile markers 11 and 13.
Structure protections crews are onsite in the pre-evacuation areas preparing for the possibility of the fire moving into the area of private properties.
The public is reminded to use caution and obey traffic signs while fire fighters are work along Pipe Creek Road.
Despite the wildfire’s continued growth, weather did improve over the weekend bringing cooler temperatures, increased humidity and cloud cover that helped to minimize fire growth, Sunday’s report said.
A closure order issued on August 20 remains in effect for the National Forest Lands in the vicinity of the Gold Hill Fire on the Libby Ranger District.
An air quality alert was also issued by Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality on Sunday, August 26. Air quality problems are due to smoke from the northwest Montana fires as well as others in the Pacific Northwest which are blowing into our area. According to DEQ, an air quality alert means that “particulates have been trending upwards and that an exceedance of the 24 hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard has occurred or may occur in the near future.”
Libby’s air quality monitoring station detected unhealthy conditions on Sunday, August 26. The scale of health effect categories used ranges from good, to moderate, to unhealthy for sensitive groups, to unhealthy fin general followed by very unhealthy and finally to hazardous.
According to DEQ’s website, under unhealthy air conditions it is recommended that prolonged outdoor exertion be limited for healthy adults and totally avoided for those with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children.
Daily air quality monitoring can be accessed at svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/
The Tenmile and Sterling Complex fire updates proved more positive. The lightening-caused wildfires located about 18 miles south of Eureka did not grow over the weekend.
The Tenmile fire was reported at 97% containment, and the Sterling Complex fires were 65% contained as of Sunday. 16% of th3 65% containment was achieved over the weekend.
The Davis Fire which is located about 10 miles northwest of Yaak also continues. It has burned 6,597 acres and it’s perimeter is 16% contained. Based on Inciweb details, it is estimated that the fire will not be contained until Sept. 15.
Stage II Fire Restrictions remain in effect to prevent human-caused wildfires. Campfires are prohibited along with smoking outdoors except within a developed recreation site or while in an area at least three feet wide that is barren of flammable materials. Motorized vehicles are prohibited off of designated roads and trails, and internal combustion engines are prohibited between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. For more information about fire restrictions visit https://firerestrictions.us/mt/
According to the Forest Service press release, a positive effect results from some fires. It reads, “Low intensity fire helps to improve the health of the forest and reduce the hazardous load of fuels that has accumulated over the years. In turn, wildlife habitat, watershed conditions and many other natural resources will be enhanced.”