While smoke continues to roll into the Bitterroot Valley from fires near Dixie, Idaho, (photo above) the Bitterroot National Forest has raised its fire danger level to "Very High," moving up from a "high" rating only a week ago.

In 2020, "Very High" danger level was not reached until August 19th. Bitterroot Forest Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said, "For us to move from High fire danger to Very High in just a matter of days is really unprecedented. The big concern right now is our high temperatures and things are drying out much quicker than normal with these record conditions. Even in the timbered stands, heavy fuels like standing dead trees and logs are already extremely dry. We are matching the record setting conditions of 2017 and are already drier than average August conditions."

Meanwhile, on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest directly west of the valley, the Dixie Fire, which was at 400 acres yesterday evening, is now approaching 2,500 acres today. Fire fire is 40 miles southeast of Grangeville and about 15 miles south of Elk City, Idaho. A Type 1 Incident Management Team will take over command Thursday morning. Officials are asking the public to avoid the Dixie area because of the extreme fire behavior. Fire danger in Idaho has reached "Extreme" levels in areas.

In Montana, the rules for the Bitterroot National Forest's Very High fire danger conditions include possible fines for leaving a campfire unattended, limit your recreational shooting, do your firewood cutting in the cool morning hours with shovel and fire extinguisher available, drive and park only on established roads and areas. Do not park on dry grass. Open burning throughout Ravalli County has been prohibited by the County Commissioners, as of last Friday, July 2. So far this year, the Bitterroot National Forest has had 11 human-caused fires and 13 lightning fires. Updates will be available at the forest's Facebook page.

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