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Fires burn Flathead Reservation, restrictions kick in Thursday

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RONAN — Two lightning-caused wildfires are filling Mission Valley skies with smoke, and the Flathead Reservation will enter Stage 1 Fire Restrictions at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, August 7 in hopes of preventing future incidents.

"We're in full swing, as you can see with all the smoke in the air," Division of Tribal Fire Investigator and Information Officer Devlin Lafrombois said Tuesday.

A lightning storm on Saturday spurred reports of 10 wildfires on the reservation. Lafrombois said authorities located five of the fires. Four have been extinguished. Other fires that weren't found may have burned out, been put out by rain, or have not grown large enough to be noticed.

One fire ignited from the storm is now 257 acres in size. The blaze is located in the Lozeau area that is located five to seven miles west of Elmo. As of Tuesday, the fire was contained.

"It's not spreading anymore," Lafrombois said.

Another fire that has been burning longer is also being monitored by tribal firefighters. The Seepay Fire was discovered July 17 in a roadless area of steep terrain with heavy downed dead material from beetle-killed lodge pole pine and sub-alpine fir timber.

The fire has grown to more than 100 acres. The Division of Tribal Fire is letting the blaze burn.

"It's too dangerous to send firefighters up there," Lafrombois said.

In the past month tribal fire has also dealt with three fires it believes were intentionally set in the Arlee area. The blazes did not threaten structures.

Lafrombois reminded people that if convicted of starting a wildfire, people can receive jail time, be fined, and have to pay the costs of damages of the fire.

Stage 1 Fire Restrictions prohibit the following:

·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 diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

Stage 1 exemptions are extended to:

·Persons with a written permit that specifically authorizes the otherwise prohibited act.

·Persons using a device solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off.

·Persons conducting activities in those designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice.

·Any federal, state, or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.

·All land within a city boundary is exempted.

·Other exceptions unique to each agency/tribe. (i.e. cultural fires, tanning fires, sweats, etc.)

Exceptions do not absolve an individual or organization from liability or responsibility for any fire started from exception activity.

If you have additional questions please contact the Division of Fire at (406) 675-2700, ext. 6400, or fire@cskt.org

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