More fire restrictions were lifted in Gallatin and Park counties Tuesday.
Officials wrote in a news release that fire restrictions had been rescinded on land managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Gallatin, Park, Deer Lodge and Granite counties. The news release did not specify why restrictions were lifted. An official with FWP could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.
Stage 1 fire restrictions were still in place on FWP-managed land in Madison, Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Jefferson and Lewis and Clark counties on Tuesday.
Stage 1 restrictions prohibit campfires outside of designated fire rings in developed sites and smoking outside of areas that have been cleared of flammable material at least 3 feet in diameter.
While the FWP restrictions were lifted, wildfire smoke still hangs in the air. Air quality in Bozeman improved slightly after it reached unhealthy levels on Monday, according to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
Air quality was rated as moderate early Tuesday morning, but it worsened by noon, when particulate levels became “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
Montana DEQ issued an air quality alert for Beaverhead, Madison, Silver Bow and Gallatin counties because of the smoke, which wafted to the region from the Alder Creek and Trail Creek fires west of Wise River and large wildfires in other western states.
The Alder Creek and Christensen fires, which were burning 7 miles west of Wise River, merged earlier this week. The fires by Tuesday had burned a combined 28,360 acres and were 24% contained.
The Trail Creek fire about 20 miles west of Wisdom had burned 44,254 total acres by Tuesday. It was 58% contained.
DEQ air quality monitoring specialists predicted that conditions in the state would remain warm and dry through Wednesday morning before a shift in wind patterns occurs.
“With active fires in the Pacific Northwest and some increased activity within the state, it looks like (there) will be some smoke around for a couple more days,” the department wrote in an update.
Portions of Gallatin, Madison, Beaverhead, Jefferson, Silver Bow and Broadwater counties on Tuesday were still experiencing exceptional drought conditions, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map released last Thursday.
Under exceptional drought — the worst drought classification issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor — pasture loss is widespread, properties are closed for hunting and fire risk is extremely high.
Twelve block management areas in FWP’s southwest Montana region were closed to hunting on Tuesday because of high fire danger. The state’s elk and deer archery season opened Sept. 4, and the general rifle season is set to begin on Oct. 23.
Despite dry conditions, authorities have been easing fire restrictions in southwest Montana over the past couple weeks.
The Gallatin County Commission last week lifted a county-wide burn ban that had been in effect for over a month. The Custer Gallatin National Forest later removed fire restrictions in all areas of the forest apart from the Sioux Ranger District in southeastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota.
The Bureau of Land Management followed suit, lifting fire restrictions on all BLM-managed land in Gallatin and Park counties.