Burning slash sparked forest fires near Libby and Polebridge this week, with the Libby fire growing to 300 acres by Wednesday, in an early and unsettling beginning to the fire season.
The Libby area fire is burning on mostly private land in the Bull River Valley. It grew from five acres to 300 acres within 24 hours and remained uncontrolled Wednesday.
Jeanne Spooner, of Kootenai National Forest, said eight crews had been called to the fire, and a fire camp was being pitched on the South Fork of the Bull River.
Slash-pile fires to dispose of logging debris sometimes spread during the spring burning season, but the swift spread of the Kootenai fire surprised officials. Kurt Wurst, fire management officer, said Wednesday timber and other fuels in the forest “are drying out and ready to burn.”
Spooner said the Bull River fire was reported at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. It has burned one old outbuilding and damaged another, she said.
The fire burned hot, spurred by a warm wind. It spread from logging slash, but the cause of the fire is under investigation, Spooner said.
Meanwhile, a smaller fire, also from a slash burn out of control, quickly was contained Monday after covering three acres near the North Fork of the Flathead River north of Polebridge. The fire was put out by local residents and crews from the Flathead National Forest.