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Lightning Storms Spark Fires
by Kootenai National Forest
July 25, 2009

Lightning storms have sparked numerous wildfires on the Kootenai National Forest that are concentrated on the Three Rivers Ranger District.

The first system moved through on Thursday, July 23, igniting more than 20 fires in the Upper Yaak through the Callahan Creek drainage; with the largest fire in the Pete Creek drainage, measuring 2 acres. Most of the fires are staffed and as resources are gathered, firefighters are placed by helicopter or hike to unstaffed, remote fires. On-site are smokejumpers, helitack crew members, three 20-person initial attack crews and local district fire personnel. Helicopters, air tankers, and lead planes helped with initial attack in the first operational period and helicopters will continue to support the fires with water bucket work and crew support.

A second system went through in the early morning on Friday, July 24, that has sparked several more fires throughout the forest. Initial attack efforts have been very successful and none of the fires are threatening any structures or communities. Fire managers expect to see holdover lightning fires emerge over time from the recent storm, so it could continue to be a very busy fire season.

Summer heat, along with low humidity and fierce winds, can create an opportunity for extreme fire danger. The conditions came together last Thursday for just such a condition, a RED FLAG WARNING. This term is used by fire-weather forecasters to call attention to the combination of weather factors that may result in extreme burning conditions. This short term, temporary warning indicates the combination of low humidity, wind, temperature, dry fuel, and drought conditions that contribute to a heightened probability for new fires starting and spreading rapidly. Extreme fire behavior may be exhibited.

On the Kootenai National Forest, these red flag days are indicated by a red flag waving at our Smokey Bear Fire Danger Rating signs. You can also check for these conditions at www.wrh.noaa.gov/mso/. To check on existing fires in the western United States, go to www.inciweb.org. During these times, please be careful with all outdoor activity.

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