Closures related to fire suppression efforts on the Rice Ridge Fire are still in effect for public lands managed by the Lolo National Forest, Montana DNRC and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Local agencies and the incident management team ask people to respect these closures for their own safety and the safety of the firefighters still working on the fire.
Even though recent precipitation has tampered fire behavior, multiple pieces of heavy equipment engaged in the repair efforts are utilizing the road system. These narrow, winding mountain roads have become slick, requiring slower speeds and careful attention. Such conditions do not make it safe to mix public traffic with the heavy equipment. In addition, hazards associated with weakened trees and snags pose a threat to public safety, as they have potential to fall over and block travel corridors.
Fire managers have received reports of members of the public firing guns in the shooting range area, as well as hunters bypassing the road closure barricades to access their favorite hunting grounds within the closed area. Discharge of firearms and unauthorized traffic in areas where firefighters are actively working pose a threat to crews working hard to open public lands for use.
As the weather improves today, the incident management team plans to resume reconnaissance flights and evaluate the potential for fire movement in the wilderness areas given the predicted warming and drying trend next week. Forest managers will work with fire operations personnel to analyze this information, as well as the progress on repair efforts, and evaluate the closures for possible modification and/or rescission as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We recognize that hunting and other outdoor recreation plays an important role in the culture and economy of the communities impacted by the Rice Ridge Fire,” said Diane Hutton, Incident Commander. ”We are working with the Seeley Ranger District to reopen areas as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Information regarding the closure status will be updated immediately upon modification and can be found in various places. The Rice Ridge Fire Inciweb page (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5414) has information and maps pertaining to the fire-related closures. Visit the Lolo and Flathead National Forests webpages for additional information for closures on National Forests lands. Visit fwp.mt.gov or call 406-542-5500 for up-to-date information on Fish, Wildlife and Park land and hunting closures.