Firefighters have discovered 23 illegal, abandoned, or escaped campfires burning on the Bitterroot National Forest in just the last seven days, according to a Bitterroot National Forest news release.
Two of the fires were discovered Sunday morning (August 11) off Skalkaho Highway near Gird Point Lookout and Railroad Creek (near the Idaho-Montana state line), east of Hamilton, Montana (40 miles south of Missoula).
Both fires had escaped their makeshift rings and if crews had not been close by, could have quickly and easily spread to nearby grass and trees.
The Forest Service is asking for the public’s help in stopping this growing problem. It’s a major concern as fire crews are spending their time responding to and putting out abandoned campfires, which could delay responses to new wildfires that start.
More than half of the abandoned campfires were discovered outside designated/approved campgrounds, where fires are currently prohibited under Stage 1 Restrictions.
Stage 1 fire restrictions went into effect August 1 on the Bitterroot National Forest. Campfires are allowed only within a designated campground or recreation site which contains a Forest-provided fire ring.
For a list of all designated campgrounds and recreation sites, visit the Forest website (SEE link below)
Individuals who violate these restrictions could face fines of up to $5,000 and be held liable for all suppression costs and damages for starting a fire.
Current Fire Danger
The Bitterroot National Forest fire danger is currently very high.
Forest officials are asking the public to be extremely careful when camping and to remember that it’s your job and responsibility to properly maintain and extinguish all campfires.
Smoke & Haze
The smoke and haze that drifted into the Bitterroot Valley overnight is coming from the Pony Complex and Elk fires burning in Idaho.
Combined, the two fires have grown to nearly 200,000 acres
Bitterroot National Forest
The 1.6 million acre Bitterroot National Forest, in west central Montana and east central Idaho, is part of the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Elevation ranges from 3,200 feet at the north end of the Bitterroot Valley to Trapper Peak at 10,157 feet in the mountains on the south. In the Idaho portion of the Forest, elevations drop to about 2,600 feet along the Selway River and 2,200 feet on the Salmon River.
Half of the forest is dedicated to the largest expanse of continuous pristine wilderness in the lower 48 states—the Selway Bitterroot, Frank Church River of No Return, and the Anaconda Pintler.
Much of its beauty can be attributed to the heavily glaciated, rugged peaks of the Bitterroot Range. Drainages carved by glaciers form steep canyons that open into the valley floor. The abundance of natural resources offers a wide range of opportunities for recreation, grazing, wildlife, fisheries, timber, and minerals.
Enjoy the magnificent mountains, the serenity of wilderness, miracle of spring flowers, majestic big game, and sounds of birds.
Summer is a great time to visit the Bitterroot National Forest.
Recreation opportunities abound here including camping at 24 developed campgrounds and five group sites, hiking on more than 1,600 miles of trails, fishing for brook and rainbow trout in crystal-clear Alpine lakes, boating, biking, horseback riding, and more.
The Forest is home to many species of wildlife including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose, plus many varieties of smaller animals and birds.
Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office Address: 1801 North 1st, Hamilton, MT 59840
Phone: (406) 363-7100
A beautiful flower, a beautiful river, a valley, a magnificent range—such is the Bitter Root.