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Stage 1 fire restrictions lifted

| September 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Stage I fire restrictions for northwestern Montana were lifted as of noon Thursday, Sept. 14, due to cooler temperatures and recent moisture.

Restrictions were lifted within Flathead and Lincoln counties, plus that portion of Lake County outside the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal lands, plus all lands administered by the Kootenai National Forest, Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park.

Under Stage 1 restrictions, campfires are allowed only in developed or improved campgrounds and recreation sites. Camp stoves or gas grills are allowed in other areas. Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation areas or in areas of at least 3 feet in diameter that have been cleared of flammable materials.

By the end of last week, a fire started by lightning in the Ross Creek drainage on Sept. 6 had grown to an estimated 800 acres but remains classified as a low threat due to its distance from people, facilities and improved areas along with the arrival of cool, wet weather.

The fire is burning approximately 2 miles west/northwest of the Ross Creek Cedars recreational area and 2 miles south of Spar Lake. The Forest Service will be monitoring the fire to ensure that key areas of interest are protected.

The following four trails remain temporarily closed until further notification: Little Spar Lake Trail No. 143 (from the trailhead located on Road No. 384 to the end of the trail at Little Spar Lake), Cub Creek/Spar Peak Trail No. 324 from the trailhead, Mount Vernon/Spar trail No. 513 and the Ross Creek Trail No. 142 from west of the Ross Creek Cedars to the end. The trails will be re-opened as soon as they can safely be accessed. The Ross Creek Cedars scenic area and all the campgrounds in the area are currently open.

The Ulm Peak fire along the Montana/Idaho state line 12 miles southwest of Noxon was estimated at 4,200 acres over the weekend with containment at 15 percent. Full containment is expected by Nov. 1.

The number of firefighters and support personnel assigned to the fire has been reduced to 28, along with one engines and one bulldozer. Fire activity is anticipated to decrease due to lower temperatures, higher relative humidities, and possible rain showers.

The fire was started by lightning and discovered on Aug. 18. The Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle national forests have implemented area closures for the fire area. For specific information on the closures, call the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District office at (208) 783-2100 or the Cabinet Ranger District office at (406) 827-3533.