Thursday, August 3, the Bitterroot National Forest entered the "Extreme" level of fire danger.

The fires on the forest are not large, compared to surrounding forests, but two main factors are being considered.

Tod McKay of the forest reported in a news release, "Critical fire conditions of dry fuels, hot temperatures, low humidity, dry lightning and gusty winds are expected to continue through this week and into the weekend." Fires can start quickly, spread furiously and burn intensely and even smaller fires are affected.

Then, there's the human element. Last weekend, area firefighters responded to 13 human-caused fires in Ravalli County - including fireworks, flipped cigarettes and more.

Fire managers are imploring the public to be more responsible and self-restrained during a summer that is already breaking records for lack of rain and high temperatures. McKay said there was no measurable rainfall in July. That's the driest July ever - all the way back to 1893, when they started recording those numbers.

Stage 2 fire restrictions ban campfires and require work in the woods with spark-producing equipment to end by 2 p.m. daily - "hoot owl" restrictions.

The Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks has also put "hoot owl" restrictions on the Bitterroot River from the north edge of Hamilton to Missoula. No fishing in the afternoons and evenings.

Forest Fire Update - August 3 at 12 Noon:

Lolo Peak Fire - 6,542 acres. Bass Creek Trail is closed, but Charles Waters Campground remains open. A Firewise wagon is at the intersection of US 93 and Highway 12 in Lolo. An information map is at Super One Foods in Stevensville. A public meeting will be Thursday evening at Florence Baptist Church at 7 p.m.

In the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness(from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest):
Moose 1 Fire - 4,396 acres
Lone Pine Fire - 2,963 acres and is expected to merge with 485-acre Mink Peak Fire
Hidden Fire - 728 acres, growing to the south

The 3,220-acre Liberty Fire and the Rice Ridge Fire - Public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Seeley Lake Elementary School.

Sunrise Fire - 11,900 acres - south of Superior.

Selway Complex - 12,775 - near Rock Creek and I-90.

Meyers Fire - 11,882 acres - is the combined Meyers and Whetstone fires, south of Philipsburg.

Air quality has been "Dangerous for Sensitive Groups" in Hamilton.