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Montana fire restrictions increase; Idaho's Moose Fire shows extreme behavior

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A firefighter sprays a hot spot from the Moose Fire burning in central Idaho near the Montana border.

Some Montana counties are limiting residents’ fire activity in light of wildfire risk and hot, dry weather.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks says Big Horn, Musselshell and Treasure Counties join Yellowstone County in passing Stage 1 restrictions, which apply to building fires and smoking outside. Stage 2 restrictions — which aren’t in effect — extend to activities like welding or setting off fireworks.

Bureau of Land Management Montana-Dakotas fire manager Aaron Thompson says agencies are trying to cut down on the number of human-caused fires.

“If we can do that, that will reduce the amount of new starts that we get until lightning occurs, and we have not seen as much lightning this year as last," he said.

The state says more than half of Montana fires are human-caused. Thompson says this fire season is an average one so far, and that has a lot to do with higher humidity and recent rain.

The Moose Fire is showing extreme fire behavior

The Moose Fire burning near the Montana-Idaho border north of Salmon is more than 43,000 acres in size and 15% contained. Fire officials with the Salmon-Challis National Forest say it’s showing extreme behavior that could spread flames across the Highway 93 corridor.

The fire in Idaho is threatening homes, energy infrastructure, mining operations and Salmon’s municipal water supply.

The fire may send smoke into southwest Montana through the weekend.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.
Kathleen Shannon is a reporter with Montana Public Radio.