American Fork fire

An image of the American Fork fire in the Crazy Mountains posted on Inciweb, a wildfire tracking platform, on Tuesday. The fire burned an estimated 5,200 acres as of 12:42 p.m. Tuesday.

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Officials plan to ban all campfires on federally managed land in southwest Montana starting on Wednesday and Thursday just after midnight. The announcement came just after two wildfires on the northeast end of the Crazy Mountains merged into one large fire.

The new, tightened stage 1 fire restrictions impact all public land managed by the Custer Gallatin National Forest and are set go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

Under the stage 1 restrictions, all campfires will be prohibited — even those at designated sites and in metal fire rings. Any target shooting outside of a designated shooting range won’t be allowed.

Before Wednesday, people could build campfires at designated sites in the Bozeman, Hebgen Lake, Yellowstone and Gardiner Ranger Districts of the Custer Gallatin.

Stage 2 fire restrictions were also set to go into effect on all land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Beaverhead, Madison, Silver Bow and Deer Lodge Counties. The restrictions were staged to start at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

BLM land in Powell County south of Interstate Highway 90 and state Highway 12, and in Granite County south of I-90 and east of the Lolo National Forest boundary, were included in the order.

Under stage 2 restrictions, people may not build, maintain or attend fires or campfires. They may not use an internal combustion engine, a torch with an open flame or any explosive from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Motor vehicles can’t be used off of designated roads and trails.

In addition, people may not smoke outside of an enclosed vehicle, building or developed site. They are allowed to smoke in an area that has been cleared of all flammable material at least three feet in diameter.

“We recognize having a campfire to roast marshmallows or enjoying an afternoon target shooting with friends is an enjoyable experience,” said Marna Daley, a spokesperson for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, in a news release. “We look forward to the time when conditions on the national forest allow us to provide these opportunities again.”

Just as the restrictions were announced, the American Fork fire in the Crazy Mountains had combined with the O’Hearn fire in the same area.

The American Fork fire burned an estimated 5,200 acres by Tuesday morning, up from 4,400 acres on Monday. A large area closure that ropes in several Forest Service roads and trails is forthcoming, according to fire managers.

Officials are poised to close a swath of Forest Service land near the intersection of Meagher, Sweet Grass and Park counties.

“We anticipate additional growth today, under red flag conditions, with high temperatures, low relative humidity, and gusty winds,” they wrote on Tuesday morning. “Very hot temperatures will continue to dominate the weather through much of the week with minimum humidity.”

Light rain passed over the Goose fire area 32 miles south of Ennis on Monday night, according to fire managers. They estimated that the blaze had reached 6,388 acres by Tuesday morning, though mapping flights were not possible at the time.

Stronger, more severe thunderstorms carrying small hail, wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, heavy downpours and lightning were possible on Tuesday afternoon. Officials were expecting a cold front to pass through on Thursday, which could throw embers and cause burning snags to fall across fire lines.

The Goose fire was 24% contained on Tuesday morning. There were 308 people working on it, including seven crews, two helicopters and 18 engines.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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