Storms near Montana wildfire pose potential threat to firefighters, officials say

HAMILTON, Mont., Strong winds and lightning caused by predicted strong thunderstorms in the Montana area could cause threats to the emergency crews fighting the wildfire called the Roaring Lion Fire.

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Officials told KECI that the severe weather conditions could have an effect on the fire similar to “opening the flue on a wood-burning stove.”

Sudden downdraft winds from the base of a thunderstorm, known as microbursts, can cause trees to fall with little to no warning, while lightning and low moisture content could cause more fires.

“Our concern will be keeping the troops safe,” meteorologist Dan Borsum told the Missoulian. “There are a lot of burned trees on the fire. Those high winds could knock down a lot of them. In terms of making progress, progress will have to yield to safety for a couple days. We’ll do what we can.”

Chris Grove, of U.S. Forest Service, told the Ravalli County Commission resources could be diverted to allow a team to focus on putting out new fires.

“We don’t need any little ones getting big on us,” he said.

More than 500 families have been evacuated from the area due to the blaze, which began July 31.

According to Borsum, a tenth of an inch or more of rain could fall onto the fire, which has burned about 8,000 acres and consumed 16 homes, but heavier and more consistent rains would be required to dampen the blaze.

“To be helpful for firefighting, we look for moisture to linger to make a better adjustment to the fuels that are driving the fire,” he said. “A quick rain like that doesn’t penetrate the canopy. It may not do the job for us even if we do get a little bit of moisture.”

Bitterroot Forest Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said Stage 1 fire restrictions, which would prohibit campfires and smoking outside of designated areas, could be implemented in the area by Monday.

“Fire behavior has been out-performing the indices,” he said. “We haven’t been able to nail down why. It may be that the heavy dead fuel is a little drier than what we thought.”

Upi News