wildfire forest fire stock stockimage

Fire burns through undergrowth in this stock image.

MISSOULA — Firefighters battling five blazes in northwest Montana are bracing for the potential of thunderstorms that could pack high winds and dry lightning Saturday.

On Thursday, crews on the 1,145-acre Lazier Creek 3 Fire saw some increased fire activity that included some tree torching and spotting due to warmer weather and gusty winds.

“In the afternoon, there was a little more wind than what was expected,” said Fire Information Officer Anna Callahan. “They weren’t super strong winds, but they were sustained.”

The winds caused a small spot fire outside the fire line on the southeast edge of the fire burning south of Highway 2 and west of the Thompson River Road.

Two more hot shot crews arrived to help with the fire Thursday, which brings the number of firefighters assigned to Lazier Creek 3 to 300.

The fire is now considered 35 percent contained. It didn’t grow in size Thursday.

The 78-acre Rogers Mountain Fire burning three miles northwest of Happy’s Inn is now 60 percent contained. Crews completed laying hose around the perimeter of the fire. Friday’s efforts focused on the southern edge where the fire was most active Thursday.

There are 69 firefighters assigned to that fire.

The other three smaller fires burning in the complex are either considered completely contained or nearly so. Crews were focused on extinguishing the remaining hot spots and other mop up work.

The National Weather Service is calling for the potential of strong isolated thunderstorms Saturday in northwest Montana with temperatures expected to rise in the mid 90s for the area. The storms could bring lightning and gusty winds.

Cooler temperatures are in the forecast after Saturday.

“The containment of the Lazier Creek fire continues to go up slowly,” Callahan said. “We want to wait and see what comes through tomorrow. After that, we might have a better idea on how long it’s going to take to contain this fire.”

Officials are warning the public to be extremely careful in the woods this weekend, including watching where you park. Exhaust pipes and vehicle undercarriages can get extremely hot and easily start a fire if parked in dry grass and brush.

The Weyerhaeuser Company has banned campfires until further notice on land it owns in Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Missoula, Sanders and Ravalli counties due to the high forest fire danger.

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