GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – The Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park (Inciweb) has burned an estimated 11,519 acres and is 10% contained as of Saturday, August 25. The lightning-sparked fire has destroyed numerous private homes and structures, but there have been no reported injuries. It is located along the northwest edge of Lake McDonald, and about nine miles from West Glacier.
A press release from Glacier National Park says that fire was active and grew on Friday due to the arrival of a low-pressure system with gusty winds. Uphill runs, group tree torching and short-range spotting created a smoke column that was visible from a distance.
At the south end of the perimeter, the fire continued to back toward the Inside North Fork Road with isolated torching in stands of lodgepole pine. Helicopters and the CL-215 “Super Scoopers” were kept busy dropping water to slow growth. Removal of dead trees and brush along the Inside North Fork continues, preparing the road to serve as a fire break. Structure protection is in place in the Fish Creek Campground.
The north end of the fire was also active, with uphill runs, group torching and short-range spotting on the lower slopes below Mount Vaught. The fire is not spreading along McDonald Creek, as the area has moist fuels and is shaded. Helicopter bucket drops were used to slow fire spread towards the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor. Sprinklers are running along the Upper McDonald Creek trails to provide additional protection for the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.
Hoses and sprinklers are in place to protect the Trail of the Cedars and other facilities at the Avalanche Creek Campground in the event the fire reaches that area.
Evacuations: Evacuation orders are in place for the North McDonald Road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station), Lake McDonald Lodge area (all businesses, employees, and private residences), private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Sprague Creek, Avalanche, and Fish Creek Campgrounds.
Evacuation Warnings: An Evacuation Warning is in place from the Quarter Circle Bridge Road north. This includes Apgar, the Grist Road, and all areas accessed from Quarter Circle Bridge Road. A separate evacuation warning is in place for all park areas north of the Bowman Lake Road junction with the Inside North Fork Road due to Whale Butte Fire activity, currently burning on Flathead National Forest land adjacent to the park boundary. An Evacuation Warning means people need to be ready to leave but are not being evacuated at this time.
Road and Trail Closures: The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. It is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. The North McDonald Road and Fish Creek Road are closed. The Inside North Fork Road is closed from Fish Creek to Logging Creek. Multiple trail closures are associated with this fire. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website: www.nps.gov/glac.
Fire Restrictions: Glacier National Park and most of western Montana are under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in Glacier’s frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.
For a recorded Howe Ridge Fire update, call (406) 888-7077. For general Glacier National Park information, visit www.nps.gov/glac or call (406) 888-7800.
Most of Glacier National Park, the Flathead National Forest, and tourism opportunities throughout northwest Montana are open and operating as usual.
A temporary flight restriction is in effect in the fire area.
The smoke outlook for northwest Montana is available at: https://wildlandfiresmoke.net/outlooks/NWMontana
Story by David Sherman, MTN News