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Global Skywatch

Gold Pan fire public meeting

DARBY – Fire managers will meet with residents of the West Fork and Painted Rocks areas at 2 p.m. Saturday to talk about their strategy on the 16,959-acre Gold Pan fire.

Open to all, the informational meeting will be held at the incident command post on the Scripps Yonder Ranch, on Nez Perce Road four miles west of the West Fork Ranger District.

Late Wednesday night, firefighters successfully completed a burnout along about four miles of the Magruder Corridor Road, information officer Thomas Kempton reported Thursday. The plan was to remove all unburned fuel south of the road, to prevent the fire from spreading to the north.

A helicopter ignited the burnout using 16,000 incendiary ping-pong balls. Firefighters remained on patrol in the area overnight and throughout the day Thursday – on high alert because of a forecast calling for dry thunderstorms.

Kempton said the effects of last week’s rains are gradually disappearing, and fire activity is picking up on the south side of the Gold Pan fire in the Lunch Creek and Grass Gulch areas, east of the Selway River and about four miles south of Magruder Road.

Fire managers studied that area Thursday to develop a plan of attack, should the fire move to the east.

The incident command team has reopened Forest Road 5644 at its junction with Nez Perce Road and at Mud Creek Saddle, as well as Forest Road 1303.

Firefighting rigs are still using the road, so travelers are advised to use caution.

The Magruder Road remains closed from Fales Flat campground on the east to Observation Point, Idaho, on the west. Fales Flat campground remains open to the public.

Kempton said work continues on the contingency line directly west of private property north of Nez Perce Road and west of West Fork Road.

There are 476 personnel assigned to the Gold Pan fire.

Kempton emphasized again that the fire “will be a long-duration fire due to its size, topography, fuels, location and the early dry warm weather this area of Montana and Idaho has experienced.”

“Fire activity is steadily increasing in intensity as warmer, dry air has returned to the area,” he said.

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The Moose Meadow fire is closing up shop in the backcountry southeast of Philipsburg.

On Friday, a Pintler Ranger District management team will take responsibility for the fire, which burned 3,500 acres since a lightning strike on July 25.

More than 100 firefighters spent Thursday pulling hose off the fireline, checking for hotspots, mopping up and watching for any new ignitions.

“The containment line is largely complete, with the exception of the northeast fire flank in the Senate Creek area, where the terrain is dominated by rock bluffs and pockets of heavy fuels,” said the final report from incident commander Shawn Pearson.

At its height, the Moose Meadow fire was 15 miles west of Georgetown Lake and 18 miles southeast of Philipsburg.