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Moisture helps tame Montana fires but forecasters say warmer weather on way

by Laura Scheer, The Missoulian (Missoula, Mont.) |

Western Montana received some much-needed rain over the weekend, helping to dampen fire growth and clear smoke for the time being.

Missoula's air quality was "good" for the first time in weeks Saturday, Sunday and into Monday.

The cool and damp weather will be replaced with temperatures back in the 80s and 90s with abundant sunshine Tuesday and into the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

Above-average heat could increase wildfire danger, with temperatures expected to reach a high of 96 by Friday.

Fire danger was lowered from "Extreme" to "Very High" Monday for the Missoula area, although Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in place.

“Missoula, Ravalli, and Mineral counties together have dealt with 18 new wildland fires since August 1st and one-third of those were still caused by humans! We can’t control the lightning, but those human sparks are 100 percent preventable,” said Kristin Mortenson, community preparedness and fire prevention specialist with the DNRC’s Southwestern Land Office, in a release.

Elsewhere, rain was a boon against Montana's Boulder 2700 Fire. Burning east of Polson along Flathead Lake, the fire has reached 2,072 acres and is 31 percent contained, according to a Monday update.

Minimal fire behavior was observed Sunday as a half-inch of rain fell at Flathead Lake, with more than an inch hitting the ridgelines.

Managers plan to cease night shift operations and redirect efforts to addressing snags and other hazards around structures and roadways.