Weather dampens effects of West Fork fire but more growth expected; fire at 5,760 acres Tuesday morning

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This map of the West Fork fire, which now includes the formerly separate Mount Tom fire, was released Tuesday morning. (Courtesy map)

UPDATE 11:32 p.m.: Story updated to reflect cancellation of planned burning of vegetation.

Both the smoke and inversion “really did dampen” the effects of the West Fork fire from Monday to Tuesday, a Forest Service official said, but not enough to stop its advance.

“There’s a lot of fire (still) on the landscape and it will continue to grow,” said spokesperson Nate Gassmann.

Even with the moderating effect of the weather, the West Fork fire — which now includes the formerly separate Mount Tom fire — grew Monday night to 5,760 acres and remains at zero percent containment, according to an incident fact sheet. Fifty-four personnel were assigned to the fire.

As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, both the West Fork fire, which is 7 miles northwest of Libby, and the Moose Peak fire in southern Lincoln County were placed under new management. The Rocky Mountain Area Incident management Blue Team has assumed command under the leadership of Jay Esperance, The team is staging personnel and resources at a growing fire camp in J. Neils Park in Libby.

The plan for Tuesday was to put firefighters on Forest Service Road 600 to construct fire line and shore up the road as a containment line.

“Dozers and other heavy equipment will be working north of the Bobtail community connecting dozer lines to construct indirect containment lines, which will later be used to conduct burnout operation,” the fact sheet states.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, it was announced on a West Fork and Moose Peak Fires Facebook page that firefighters “will be burning out unburned vegetation between the active fire and Bobtail Ridge Trail and Bobtail Ridge Road this evening and again tomorrow morning. These actions are being taken to further provide protection for private values at risk. Acres burned will increase as a result of these burn out activities.”

About two hours later, the Facebook page said the burnout was canceled due to a change in conditions.

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