The Latest: Crews attack fire on Montana-Idaho border

By – Associated Press – Friday, July 20, 2018

LIBBY, Mont. (AP) – The Latest on wildfires burning in western Montana (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

Fire crews are aggressively attacking a lightning-caused blaze burning in Ravalli County, along the Montana-Idaho border.

Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay said Friday that fire managers are able to get all the crews and aerial support they need because they are not competing for resources.

The fire was believed to have started with a lightning strike Tuesday night about 35 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Darby and grew to 1.7 square miles (4.3 square kilometers) on Wednesday.

McKay says “we hit it with a ton of aerial stuff” on Wednesday and it remained the same size on Friday. About 175 people are assigned to the fire, including seven 20-member teams.

The fire is not threatening any residences. The closest private residence is about 9 miles (23 kilometers away.)

3 p.m.

Specially trained firefighters are wearing respirators as they fight an apparently human-caused blaze in northwestern Montana near where asbestos-tainted vermiculite was mined for decades.

The forest fire was first discovered Thursday afternoon west of Libby, near the now-closed W.R. Grace Mine. It had burned about 50 acres (20 hectares) by Friday morning.

Kootenai National Forest spokeswoman Cami Winslow says the fire burned to within about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the mine and crews were working to keep it from advancing.

Asbestos still lingers in the trees and soil around the mine. Breathing the fibers can lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Fire management officer Dan Rose says to protect firefighters, the U.S. Forest Service requires firefighters to use respirators if they are going to do ground-disturbing work near the mine site.

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