WEST GLACIER – The Howe Ridge fire burning on the west side of Glacier National Park grew nearly 1,000 acres in one day as was anticipated by fire managers.
An overnight infrared overflight provided an updated mapping of the fire perimeter, showing that the blaze now measures 3,500 acres. Park spokesperson Lauren Alley says the fire burned actively through the night, with single tree torching and spotting producing growth to the southwest.
Additional spotting and growth were observed on the north edge of the fire on the southern slope of Mount Stanton, as well as the northwest edge of the fire toward Rogers Lake.
A “K-Max” Type 1 helicopter and “Huey” Type 2 helicopter dropped water on the edges of the fire throughout Wednesday afternoon and evening in order to slow fire growth. Fixed-wing aircraft were prevented from flying due to low visibility.
Some evacuated landowners were permitted to access their properties on Wednesday morning. However, some areas were deemed unsafe due to conditions and those landowners were not able to extensively access their property area, but were able to view it.
Structural protection crews continued to work to reduce risk to buildings at the head of Lake McDonald and Kelly’s Camp.
Thursday’s firefighting efforts will include structural protection and ground crews will continue to establish a hose lay at the north end of Lake McDonald. Air support will continue to be used to control fire spread as conditions allow.
Thursday’s weather forecast anticipates the current ridge of high pressure to begin breaking this afternoon, resulting in increased atmospheric instability. Wind directions will change, resulting in potential for the fire to expand to the southwest and northeast.
A Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team, under the command of John Pierson, is onsite and will be taking over management of this fire at 6 a.m. on Friday.
Area closures and evacuations remain in place:
Avalanche Campground and Sprague Campground
North Lake McDonald Road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station)
Lake McDonald Lodge Complex (all businesses, employees, and private residences)
Private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Alley notes in a news release that the Logan Pass Star Party planned for September 7th remains scheduled. The Logan Pass Star Party previously scheduled for Friday, August 17th has been canceled due to logistical considerations including west side access and visibility.
The park has established a Fire Information Line at 406-888-7077. Recorded information is available if a fire information officer is not available to answer the phone. The number is expected to change when the Type 1 Incident Management Team assumes control of the fire.
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.