Joining other counties, state and federal forest land, Ravalli County has instituted Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, effective immediately. The County Commissioners made the decision following their weekly update from fire officials Monday morning, July 19. Air quality this weekend in the Hamilton area was "Unhealthy" and Monday morning it slipped back to "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups."

The restrictions ban all campfires and institute what are called "hoot owl" restriction on operations the involve internal combustion engines or activities that could cause sparks. However, there are exceptions that allow regular operation of businesses, including all agricultural activities. The county's Open Burning season was shut down earlier.

Eric Hoover, Director of the Office of Emergency Management, said that often Ravalli County follows Missoula County in restriction levels. Missoula started Stage 2 on Saturday. In fact, most areas of Western Montana are in the Stage 2 levels, including Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks land in Northwest Montana.

Mark Wilson of the Bitterroot National Forest said lightning is expected Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. There were about 10 new fires reported and extinguished in the past week on the Bitterroot National Forest, including a lightning fire on Sula Peak. The Hughes Creek Fire on the West Fork Ranger District is the only blaze that is still active. He also said that with the reopening of the Ravalli County Airport in Hamilton, the forest will be stationing single-engine retardant bombers to help with forest fire response.

Smoke in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula Valley continues to come mainly from Idaho, but weather patterns are also bringing smoke from California and Oregon. In Idaho, the Dixie-Jumbo Fires are over 28,000 acres, about 60 miles west of the Bitterroot. On the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, the 200-acre Greenside Butte Fire is 8 miles southwest of the Fish Lake Airstrip and the Storm Creek Fire, south of the Powell Ranger Station, has burned about 2,800 acres and is 4 miles from Montana-Idaho border.

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