Western Montana’s first big wildfire of the year was discovered this week in the Bitterroot National Forest. According to Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Todd McKay, they’ve only experienced two small fires about a tenth of an acre up until this recent fire, which is being called the Reynolds Lake Fire.

"The fire was actually discovered on the 17th, in the afternoon by our Lookout Mountain fire lookout, which is on the West Fork Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest," McKay said. "The fire is very remote, it's actually burning on the border of the Bitterroot National Forest. It's about as far south as you can go on our forest before you cross from Montana into Idaho.

McKay says lightning strikes were recorded in the area where the fire is on Monday. By Wednesday morning the blaze was up to 250 acres, that’s when McKay says the fire really started to take off.

"It was very active Wednesday, [July 18], as people probably saw," McKay said. "There was quite a smoke plume, or column looking south. You could pretty much see it anywhere in the valley, very visible from Darby south. The growth yesterday was all wind driven as the fire had sustained wind gusts of up to 25 to 30 miles per hour pretty much all Wednesday afternoon it is to 1,068 acres."

McKay says the fire is currently being combated by about 100 fire fighters with support from retardant dumps from air tankers, bucket drops from helicopters and even a 12,000 gallon drop drop from a V.L.A.T. (Very Large Air Tanker) that flew in from Moses Lake, Washington. The Reynolds Lake Fire is easily the biggest fire in the region. Though the fire is near wilderness, McKay says they are not treating this blaze as a wilderness fire and it is a “100 percent suppression effort.”

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