Residents of western Montana and northern Idaho can expect to see some relief from the drought and wildfire smoke that have plagued the area for many weeks.
Following a Red Flag Warning that is in effect Wednesday for southwest Montana, precipitation is in the forecast for Thursday night and Friday. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for parts of western Montana.
The storm system will move into the northern Rockies on Thursday and Friday bringing rain and snow to the region. Some of the higher elevations could receive one to six inches of snow while the lower elevations can expect rain. The Lolo Peak Fire south of Missoula, for example, could get over one-half inch of rain.
Today there are 71 large uncontained wildfires in the United States.
Above: the red and orange dots on the map represent heat on wildfires detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 7:30 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017. Heat found before that is not shown.
(Originally published at 7:45 a.m. MDT September 11, 2017)
In spite of the hurricanes impacting the southeast United States, the wildfires in the Cascade Range and the Northern Rockies persevere in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.
Off and on over the last week they have slowed as clouds and even some scattered very light showers passed over the areas, but the National Interagency Fire Center reported today there are 71 active large fires, 32 that are being suppressed and 39 that are being suppressed only where needed to protect property.
So far this year 8.2 million acres have burned in the United States, which is 46 percent higher than the 5.6 million average to this date.
The weather for Monday and Tuesday could be conducive to fire growth, especially in Northwest Montana where a Red Flag Warning is in effect Monday. But Wednesday through Saturday will bring a chance of rain to Idaho and Western Montana, while the forecast for Northern California, Oregon, and Washington looks dry this week.
(Originally published at 6:36 p.m. MDT September 7, 2017.)
These maps show heat that was detected by a satellite on wildfires in the northwestern United States during the 24-hour period ending at 6 p.m. Thursday September 7, 2017. We did not include heat from the 6 days previous to the last 24 hours.
If there was heat found, it means the fires are still active, however some of it could be from proactive burning by firefighters to secure the area between firelines and the edge of the fires.
More than 27,000 firefighters are deployed on wildfires in the United States.
(Originally published at 10:35 a.m. MDT September 6, 2107)
These maps show the locations of large wildfires that are currently active in the Northwest United States. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, today there are 50 large uncontained wildfires in the United States that are being aggressively suppressed. In addition, there are another 35 fires that are not being fully suppressed.
Very large numbers of firefighting resources are currently assigned across the United States, including 560 hand crews, 1,865 engines, and 222 helicopters, for a total of 27,256 personnel.
As of yesterday 7.9 million acres has burned this year nationally, which compares to the 10-year average of 5.4 million acres for this date.
The video below shows heat and smoke in Idaho and Montana detected by a satellite on September 3 and 4, 2017.
The Rice Ridge fire has burned 108,126 acres just east of Seeley Lake 35 miles northeast of Missoula, Montana.
Above: The red line on the map shows the perimeters of the Rice Ridge and Reef Fires at 12:45 a.m. September 5, 2017. The white line was the perimeter of the Rice Ridge Fire about 24 hours before.
(Originally published at 9:18 a.m. MDT September 5, 2017)
On Monday the Rice Ridge Fire grew on the south, east, and north sides adding another 6,701 acres, and has now burned 108,126 acres. It merged at Otis Creek with another fire to the north, the 10,424-acre Reef Fire. Combined, the fires have blackened 118,550 acres, well beyond the 100,000 threshold of becoming a “megafire”.
The spread on Monday was much less than on Sunday when it almost doubled. Numerous spot fires out ahead of the main fire from Sunday’s growth are active on the east side. On the south it spread for about a mile and crossed Cottonwood Lake-Monture Road.
The transition from Thompson’s Type 2 Incident Management Team to Poncin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team occurred at 6 a.m., Tuesday, September 5.
The weather forecast calls for moderate winds with rising temperatures through Friday, but the relative humidity will reach down into the teens each day.
There is not much expectation of rain on the fire this week except for a 20 to 30 percent chance Thursday night and Friday.
Resources assigned include 15 hand crews, 64 engines, and 4 helicopters. The total number of personnel on the fire decreased Monday from 817 to 787.
At 10:45 p.m. Sunday it was mapped at 101,425 acres.
Above: The Rice Ridge Fire. Image uploaded to InciWeb September 3, 2017. Uncredited.
(Originally published at 10:11 a.m. MDT September 4, 2017)
The Rice Ridge Fire just east of Seeley Lake, Montana, spread substantially Sunday, almost doubling in size. During a 10:45 mapping flight Sunday night, it was discovered that 48,531 acres had burned during the previous 24 hours bringing the total to 101,419 acres, achieving “megafire” status when it exceeded 100K acres. The blaze is 36 miles northeast of Missoula.
The west side of the fire near Seeley Lake did not change — the growth was on the north and east sides.
The key factors in the extreme fire behavior and spread on Sunday were the relative humidity and the wind. During the morning the wind was out of the south, which accounted for the growth on the north side. Then it slowly changed to be from the southwest and the west and by 9 p.m. was coming from the north.
The relative humidity just north of the community of Seeley Lake reached 8 percent Sunday, while the temperature maxed out at 88 degrees with 6 to 12 mph winds gusting at 14 to 18. The forecast for Monday calls for more moderate conditions — 78 degrees, east winds at 10-13, and 21 percent relative humidity.
The objective on the fire is not to put it out or contain it, but to herd it around as necessary to protect private property and structures. On Sunday 737 personnel were assigned to the fire which so far has run up costs of almost $30 million.