Bitterroot Valley Fires: watchin’ and burnin’

The little Montana fire that we mentioned on September 13, the Gird End Fire, was recently featured in a fine story by the Ravalli Republic in the Bitterroot Valley. Rick Floch, fire management officer on the Bitterroot National Forest, explained that the fire’s not threatening anything, and it’s burning a nice mosaic pattern through the forest litter and downed fuels near Skalkaho Mountain.

“People ask, ‘Why aren’t you putting it out?’” Floch said. “I say, ‘Why should we?’”

Floch’s been fighting fire for nearly 40 years, and he says monitoring this one is the plan. It’s not threatening private property or any resources, and it’s not likely to go anywhere fast anytime soon. “It’s surrounded by old fire scars,” he said. “The winds are generally from the southwest. No structures are around. It’s the end of the fire season. And ecologically, it’s burning in an old decadent stand of lodgepole and whitebark pine.”

Floch says there’s a proposal to re-visit the fire areas that burned in the Bitterroot in the year 2000, and torch off some prescribed fire next fall and every ten years after that — to create a more natural mix of different-aged stands. And he thinks the Gird End Fire is a perfect candidate for a resource fire:  it was ignited by lightning on September 9 and is burning in an area that’s overstocked and hasn’t burned in decades. But it’s also surrounded by areas that have burned in recent years. The fire was estimated at 125 acres a few days ago, creeping along a ridgeline and down into a basin.

The fire’s not even listed on inciweb, but the Kootenai Creek Fire is — a little cold front blowing through the area yesterday with 30 mph winds kick-started that fire, which has been skunking around since mid-July on the west side of the valley. The Ravalli County Sheriff issued a Stage 1 Potential Evacuation Alert. The USFS closed several recreational areas and trails in the vicinity and ordered up the Bitterroot Hotshots, 10 engines, a couple of dozers, and two hand crews. Stay tuned …

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.