Along with Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, the Bitterroot National Forest is raising its fire danger level to "Extreme." The forest joins most other forests in the area with the new rating level. The rank will be official just after midnight Friday, August 10. Though temperatures will be a bit cooler this weekend, high winds are expected. Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson said, "We are currently at record-setting levels for dryness for this time of the year ... we're really seeing the grasses cure out so that's going to make a big difference with fires that start as they have the potential to spread very quickly."

Temporary firewood cutting areas that opened earlier this summer will close August 10th and campfires will not be allowed in the forest or in Ravalli County. Brad Mohn, Hamilton Fire Chief, said in a news release, "People really need to be more careful ... Another problem we deal with often is the improper disposal of cigarettes, especially along the highway. Cigarette butts should never be thrown from vehicle windows." Officials have also found a large number of abandoned campfires in the Bitterroot Valley this year.

A high pressure weather system is bringing the hot temperatures and an increasing amount of smoke and haze from forest fires south and west of Montana. A cold front will move through this weekend, which will lower the temperatures, but increase the wind. As smoke invades Western Montana you can get air quality information at the Montana Air Quality website.