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300 lightning strikes spark 2 fires on Missoula, Ninemile ranger districts

The Magpie Rock Fire burning eight miles west of Dixon doubled in size since Wednesday and has now burned an estimated 2,500 acres. (Jack Ginsburg/KPAX image)

Lightening peppered the The Lolo National Forest on Wednesday night, sparking several small fires.

Forest officials on Thursday said 300 lightning strikes were tracked across the Missoula and Ninemile ranger districts, resulting in two small fires.

“Although firefighters were able to effectively contain and control these fires, fire officials would like to remind the public to remain vigilant and cautious with the persistent hot and dry weather forecasted over the weekend,” forest officials said in a release.

One of the fires sparked in grass and shrub in the Bestwick Creek drainage on the Ninemile Ranger District north of Alberton and Interstate 90. The fire is less than 2 acres and is not spreading, and forest officials expect to reach containment on Thursday.

The Granite fire also received attention on Thursday near the top of Lolo Pass and north of Highway 12. An engine and fire crew are on scene, according to the Lolo National Forest.

No structures are threatened by either fire. Forest officials planned to fly detection flights over the Missoula and Ninemile districts throughout the day.

“With the upcoming hot and dry weather, firefighters and crews will remain vigilant and prepared to respond to previous lightning strike wildfires that may become active over the coming days,” forest officials said. “In addition to aerial detection flights, the Lolo National Forest is currently staffing five fire lookouts on the Ninemile, Superior, Plains-Thompson Falls, and Seeley Lake Ranger Districts.”

The Magpie Rock Fire burning eight miles west of Dixon doubled in size since Wednesday and has now burned an estimated 2,500 acres. There are now 287 people assigned to the lightning-caused fire which is burning in steep, rocky terrain with dense brush and timber.