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Smokejumpers used
to suppress Monture fire


by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
September 3, 1998


Eight Forest Service smokejumpers were airlifted to a fire behind the Monture Guard Station Tuesday morning, after fire officials decided to begin suppression efforts on the lightning-caused blaze.

The fire is burning in a management area where fire officials may opt to let the fire burn as a prescribed natural fire. However, according to Seeley Lake District Ranger, Tim Love, the Center Ridge fire is burning "too close to the boundary."

"We began suppression efforts last night," Love explained on Tuesday. Twelve thousand gallons of water were dropped on the fire Monday night.

The fire was spotted by a Forest Service plane flying back to Missoula from the Lewis and Clark National Forest near Helena. Love described the fire as a "sleeper" that had been started by lightning from a storm on August 23. "It came back to life," he said.

Love and other fire officials evaluated the fire on Monday, before deciding to suppress it. The fire is located in Section 30 less than a mile northeast of the Center Ridge lookout.

Other lightning-caused fires burned near Seeley Lake and Condon following mid-August thunderstorms. Personnel from the Seeley Lake Ranger District suppressed one fire in the Rice Ridge area last week. Another fire on the Blackfoot Clearwater Game Range was suppressed by crews from the State Forest at Clearwater Junction.

Near Condon, sixteen lightning-caused fires were brought under control by crews from both the State Forest and the Forest Service. Crews who worked those fires were sent home last week.

Several other fires are still burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, under the Forest Service "let burn" policy for natural, prescribed fires. However, fire officials point out that smoke in the Clearwater and Swan Valleys is from large fires in Idaho and Washington, not from the fires in the Bob Marshall.

The fire danger remains high this week, near both Condon and Seeley Lake, with ninety-degree temperatures forecast through the weekend and a chance of thunderstorms beginning on Friday.

Fire officials warn people to be careful with campfires. Forest fires may be reported in Missoula County by calling 9-1-1. North of Condon in Lake County, people may call the 24-hour Flathead Dispatch at 758-5260, or the Swan River State Forest at Goat Creek.

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