A new forest fire was spotted Sunday in the Scapegoat Wilderness, 20 miles north of Ovando, Montana. The Dry Cabin Fire was 10 acres at first glance and then grew to 50 acres within hours. As of Wednesday, July 14, the fire is 300 acres in size and is in heavy timber near other burned areas. Due to limited resources, the wilderness fire will be using local personnel, who will plan a long-duration plan with limited response. Other fires are being fought under a Full Suppression effort. Firefighting resources are being stretched thin early in this fire season.

The new fire is only one of several that have been reported this week with lightning the main cause in this continuing hot, dry weather in the West. Montana, Idaho and Arizona have the most active fires, but California and Oregon have the largest, so far.

Surrounding Missoula and Hamilton, the fires we're watching are:

  • Dixie-Jumbo Fire south of Grangeville, Idaho, grew 2,000 acres Tuesday and Wednesday's size was 19,109 acres. Structure protection is happening along the Salmon River. There is a "Keep On Floating" order on the Salmon River between Whitewater Ranch and Jim Moore Campsite, where floaters are not to camp nor stop as they pass by the fire.
  • Trail Creek Fire - south of the Bitterroot Valley on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is now at 8.542 acres and has caused the closure of Highway 43 from Chief Joseph Pass to Wisdom in the Big Hole. Near Wise River, the Alder Creek fire has grown to 1,381 acres, as of Wednesday.
  • Granite Pass Complex - on the Montana-Idaho border near Lost Trail Pass is a combined Lolo and Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest effort with three fires at a total of 1,134 acres. Motorists on Highway 12 are asked to observe the slower speed limits and do not stop to take photos.

Smoke is coming from Idaho into the Bitterroot and Missoula Valleys. One of the larger fires is the Snake River Complex south of Lewiston at over 96,000 acres. The Hamilton Air Quality level was "Moderate" much of Wednesday, with a slip into "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" in the early afternoon.

The 100 Best Places to Live on the West Coast