Fire growth over the weekend was almost incomprehensible. Most of the wildfires grew by tens of thousands of acres, with the Rice Ridge Fire having the greatest growth of more than 60,000 acres since Friday! Firefighters have worked tirelessly through the weekend, many with little to no sleep. Strong wind and a significant wind shift created the extremely volatile fire behavior, and the smoke was some of the thickest the state has seen in recent memory. Montana will continue to face this natural disaster for at least several weeks longer, as there is little to no rain/snow/moisture in the long range forecast. However, this week will provide a little break from conditions that were seen over the weekend. Tuesday morning starting off chilly in the 30s and 40s will slow the fire behavior. An AIR QUALITY ALERT for unhealthy air will be re-evaluated at 9am mainly for areas west of the Continental Divide. Dense smoke from the weekend fire activity has settled in the valleys of western Montana. Because there isn’t much wind in the forecast, these areas west of the Divide will likely remain in unhealthy to hazardous air quality for several days. Tuesday will be warmer with highs in the 70s and 80s, however the wind will be light out of the east. Following another cool night Tuesday night into Wednesday, temperatures will climb into the 80s to near 90. Once again, the wind will be generally light out of the east. Thursday will be similarly hot, dry, but without much wind. That all changes on Friday, as a new front will approach the state with a few isolated thunderstorms in western Montana. Temperatures will be hot in the 80s to around 90, and now the wind will start picking up out of the southwest. This coming weekend will have a few isolated thunderstorms Saturday, but windy weather will come through both Saturday and Sunday. Fire growth and activity will likely increase once again this weekend. Please be careful as to not create any sparks that could ignite into a fire. We Montanans are in this together.