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Liberty fire approaches 4,000 acres, nearly contained

A fire burning 17 miles southeast of Arlee in Missoula County had grown to nearly 4,000 acres as of Sunday night, Aug. 6. 

Kristen Allison, a public information officer with the California Interagency Incident Management Team No. 1 that set up at the Arlee Powwow Grounds on July 31, said 363 firefighters from across the nation were fighting the Liberty fire, including some from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

The fire, which was started by lightning on July 15, was 85 percent contained by Sunday night and had covered 3,971 acres. 

South Lake County around the Arlee area was forecast to have unhealthy air quality levels on Monday and Tuesday, especially in the morning hours. It is recommended that those with heart or lung disease, smokers, children and the elderly limit their outdoor activity. Others may want to postpone their outdoor activity until later in the day,  according to Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Meteorologist Kristen Martin. 

The morning smoke is primarily coming from the Liberty fire, but haze in the afternoon or evening may include smoke from other fires in the area, such as the Sunrise fire in Mineral County or the Rice Ridge fire in the Seeley Lake area. 

Allison said her 54-person team is one of 16 such Type I interagency incident management teams that are part of a rotation that respond to fires as needed. 

Multiple agencies make up the team, she said, including employees from the U.S. Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and local and state agencies in California. 

Allison noted that the South and Middle forks of the Jocko River Road are closed to the public. 

No evacuation orders have been made related to the Liberty fire, although the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department had earlier issued an evacuation warning for the Placid Lake community south of Seeley Lake.  

The Liberty fire, which is located north and west of Hidden Lake, started on CSKT land and has spread to the Lolo National Forest, Nature Conservancy and private lands. 

Up-to-date information about the fire can be obtained at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5437/

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