10 percent containment on Highway 37 Fire

July 24, 2018

Crews on the Highway 37 Fire reached 10 percent containment around the perimeter of the 51-acre fire Tuesday morning.

A portion of the Kootenai River near Libby previously close due to fire hazards was reopened, but the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office continued to control travel on Highway 37 as an added safety precaution.

Officials issued an advisory Tuesday afternoon, encouraging drivers to stay alert and use caution when traveling between milemarkers 4 and 5 as rocks and debris could roll onto the road. Drivers were advised to mind the 35 mph speed limit through the fire area and expect delays and intermittent road closures as crews work to clear the road.

A burnout operation began on the ground, igniting around 12 acres to secure the lines and increasing the lines’ ability to hold through forecasted weather over the next few days.

A specialized team remained on scene to monitor the potential threat the fire posed as it neared the Operating Unit 3 of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site, but the fire had not progressed any farther toward the site as of Tuesday.

Questions about smoke and asbestos from the fire can be directed to Lincoln County Public Health Manger Jennifer McCully at (406) 283-2465.

The 200-acre Bacon Rind Fire breached the southwest boundary of Yellowstone National Park, burning around 20 acres of park land as of Tuesday.

Smoke from the fire located 20 miles south of Big Sky was visible from Highway 191, but the fire posed no threat to the highway or structures.

Yellowstone raised its fire danger level to high on Monday, with temperatures remaining high and humidity dropping.

Most of the fire continues to burn in thick heavy dead and down fuels, and though it had made no significant runs as of Tuesday morning, falling snags presented a safety concern for firefighters on scene.

Fire officials from the park and Custer Gallatin National Forest continued coordination efforts to manage the fire.

On the Bitterroot National Forest near Darby, the 1,000-acre Reynolds Lake Fire reached 25 percent containment with no growth since Monday.

Despite a continued threat of falling trees, firefighters managed to finish digging a perimeter around 90 percent of the blaze.

Resources on scene Tuesday included a total of nine crews, six of which are hotshot crews, six engines and four helicopters with air tankers on standby.

Helicopters had dropped nearly 500,000 gallons of water on the Reynolds Lake Fire and continued to assist with more bucket drops. Air tankers also delivered around 81,000 gallons of fire retardant between July 17, when the fire was first detected, and Tuesday morning, helping to dramatically slow the spread and growth.

Combined flight time for all aircraft assigned to the fire reached over 150 hours on Tuesday.

Citizens are reminded to respect the air space above and around fires and not to fly drones near the scene.

An increased chance of thunderstorm activity was predicted for later in the week starting Thursday with a 40 percent chance of precipitation.

Air quality remained good for most of the state on Tuesday, with Butte, Frenchtown and West Yellowstone seeing moderate air quality due to smoke.

For updates on air quality and smoke conditions across the state, visit http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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