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Large fires erupt on west side of reservation, smaller ones on east side

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RONAN – Six new fires were sparked by lightning on the Flathead Reservation on Friday, including three large ones near Ferry Basin and two smaller ones in the Mission Mountains.

According to Division of Fire Prevention Specialist C.T. Camel, the Melton One Fire, near Melton Ranch in Hot Springs, was sparked by lightning in the morning, and by afternoon it had taken off into Ferry Basin and burned 1,700 acres. The Melton Two Fire, started nearby, had burned a little over 100 acres. A third fire in the vicinity has been named the Little Bitterroot Fire and it has burned 82 acres.

The large blazes have caused the closure of Moss Ranch Road, Race Horse Gulch, and Whiskey Trail in the fire area.

Another round of lightning strikes mid-afternoon brought the start of two smaller fires in the Mission Mountains.

Some nearby residents were warned about a fire in a wooded area northeast of Minesinger Trail in Polson that was reported around 5 p.m. Polson Rural Fire and Division of Fire responded and made their way up logging roads to reach the blaze. Camel said engines were laying hose and tackling the small fire as of 7 p.m.

A fifth fire near McDonald Lake in the Mission Mountain Wilderness area was also burning, but fire officials had not devoted resources to it because of its remote location, according to Camel.

“We are running pretty thin on people right now,” Camel said.

Camel said that though the fires that started Friday were all natural, people can help reduce fire risk by following Stage 1 fire restrictions that are currently in place.

Actions prohibited under the restrictions include:

— Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site, or improved site.

— Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

Fire danger on the Flathead Reservation is at classified as “extreme.” 

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