GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – A Type 1 Incident Management Team is gearing up to attack the Howe Ridge fire burning in Glacier National Park, bringing the most experienced fire teams to the lines.
The ridge where the blaze is burning across Lake McDonald was barely visible on Wednesday because of smoke that has settled over the lake.
Despite poor air quality and wildfire smoke choking out those world-class views that visitors come to see, Lake McDonald at Apgar Village was plenty busy Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a Type 1 Incident Management Team arrived at park headquarters to get briefed on the 2,600-acre blaze that has destroyed several cabins and other buildings on the north end of Lake McDonald.
“It’s going to take some time to figure out what’s going on get the lay of the land, to understand the resources we currently have and resource needs for the future,” Fire Information Officer Diane Sine told MTN News.
“Type 1 team generally comes with their own meteorologist, so someone who can actually get out onto the ground, take measurements, put in weather stations, really figure out what’s happening in this specific locale,” Sine explained. “We will have fire behavior analysts who will be able to analyze what is likely to happen based specifically on our terrain, our weather, our fuel loads.”
One of the main concerns in fighting the Howe ride fire continues to be the safety of the firefighters who attacking the blaze.
“One of the incredible risks is falling trees and snags. Our fire crews that are working up there are camped on the shore of Lake McDonald — not within the fire,” Sine said. “They’re not in a danger area, but a distance from the fire. And they have been awakened constantly the last two nights with the sound of snags coming down throughout the night.”
The snags that continue to fall in the area are left over from the 2003 Robert Fire which also burned on the north shore of the lake.
Crews are continuing to put protection measures in place for threatened structures at the head of the lake and property owners were allowed in for a brief time on Wednesday to assess the damage caused by the lightning-sparked fire.
The Apgar area has been placed on “Ready” status meaning that residents and visitors show get prepared now in case a later evacuation order is issued.
Area closures and evacuations remain in place:
- Avalanche Campground and Avalanche 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
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald and Logan Pass. The road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. Apgar Village, Apgar Campground and Fish Creek campground remain open. However, the Inside North Fork road is closed and multiple trail closures are in place as a result of the fire, The Loop trail is also closed.
Glacier National Park is under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires are allowed and smoking is prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter.
A Fire Information Line with updated recorded information remains in place at (406) 888-7077.
Reporting by Nicole Miller for MTN News