A small but active thunderstorm struck 35 times in a narrow band, crossing the valley north of Sula, east of Conner over the weekend. The result - seven small forest fires in the Sapphire Mountains, six of which have been controlled or extinguished and were kept to under a 10th of an acre, according to Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest. The largest fire is the Cameron fire, which is reaching an acre in size, but Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson told Ravalli County Commissioners that the fire should be controlled or out within another day.

Meanwhile, the daily report on forest fuel dryness has reached record low levels, lower than the devastating 2000 fire season, Wilson said. County Emergency Coordinator Eric Hoover said the dryness indicators confirm the "Extreme" fire danger level in the forest and the Stage 2 fire restrictions in much of western Montana. Officials said that two warnings were handed out to people lighting illegal campfires over the weekend.

There are 70 people staffed to fight any new forest fires on the Bitterroot National Forest, Wilson said, and air patrol is flying twice a day. Officials are concerned about dry lightning storms that are forecast for later this week. And, to the west, near McCall, Idaho, the Rattlesnake Creek Fire is still 42 percent contained, but has grown to 4,731 acres, as of Sunday evening. Smoke in the Bitterroot Valley is mainly coming from California and Oregon fires. Air quality in Hamilton and Missoula was "Good" Monday morning.

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