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Containment grows on Lolo Pass area fire; 600 fire starts in Montana this July

Since January, more than 1,600 fires have started in Montana burning a combined 220,000 acres. More than 600 of those fires started in July. (Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest)

Fire crews have increased containment around the Granite Pass Complex fires southwest of Missoula to 22% this week and have prevented it from crossing Highway 12.

The four fires that make up the complex are just a few of the 19 large fire incidents across Montana.

According to information released by the governor’s office, Montana entered the fiscal year with roughly $105 million in its Fire Suppression Fund – the maximum amount permitted by statute.

Officials estimate that nearly $13 million from the fund have been spent fighting fire since the start of the state’s current fiscal year. Since January, more than 1,600 fires have started in the state burning a combined 220,000 acres.

More than 600 of those fires have started in July.

On the Granite Pass Complex, which is burning near Lolo Pass on the Montana-Idaho border, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has maintained an evacuation warning for a 10-mile stretch of highway to the Idaho border.

“Wildfires burning in the Highway 12 area are moving down the highway corridor with potential to impact private property, homes and roads,” the incident team said in its latest update. “Residents and visitors in the area should stay vigilant of the current situation and be ready to immediately leave the area if an evacuation order is issued.”

Fire crews on Wednesday braced for monsoonal weather approaching from the south. The weather could bring a new round of storms to the region, followed by several more days of hot temperatures in the upper 90s.

The governor’s office said the state remains in an elevated level of preparedness and that the Northern Rockies region remains the number one fire priority in the nation.