Usually, this time of year, the Bitterroot National Forest raises the fire danger to "Very High" with hot August weather conditions. Well, this year the fire danger had already been Extreme and instead was lowered to the Very High rating. That's an indicator of how unusual this fire season has been. The early hot, dry conditions caused the forest officials into the Extreme fire danger in July, but a recent cool weekend reduced the danger and as of Monday, August 9, it's Very High.

However, the Stage 2 Fire Restrictions are still in place, which means no campfires, "hoot owl" restrictions with no firewood gathering during the afternoons, and vehicles should not leave established roads. As Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said, "Now is not the time to be complacent." He noted the current fires still burning in Montana and Idaho and the lack of rain in the southern part of the valley. He said that this weekend only a quarter inch of rain fell in the Darby-Lake Como area and less rain south of that. The most rain was reported in the northern parts of Western Montana.

The forecast is for hot, dry weather to continue and fire danger may be raised back to Extreme. Often, this is the part of fire season when the largest fires start in the Bitterroot National Forest, according to Information Officer Tod McKay. Though there were seven new fires in the Bitterroot in the past week, all fires were quickly extinguished. And McKay was happy to say that none were human-caused. There's more information at the Bitterroot National Forest Facebook page and at the new Montana fire info website.

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