GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – The lightning-sparked Howe Ridge Fire (Inciweb) in Glacier National Park has burned an estimated 7,835 acres as of Monday morning. The 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 a weather system in the area will produce erratic winds, impacting fire behavior throughout today. The system is predicted to bring slightly cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity, as well as possible showers and thunderstorms.
With the use of heavy equipment such as masticators, firefighters continue to secure the southwestern flank of the fire along the edge of the Inside North Fork Road. Crews will continue to implement structure protection in the Fish Creek Campground area with the use of sprinkler systems, while utilizing hotshot crews to create and secure containment lines. On the northeastern flank, north of Lake McDonald, firefighters are utilizing pumps and hose lays to aid in suppression efforts and limit fire spread towards the Going-to-the-Sun Road, while patrolling to protect structures and suppress any new fire activity. Fire managers continue to proactively plan for protection of other areas as the fire progresses and assure objectives align with the suppression tactics.
The Howe Ridge Fire is active on the southern and southwestern flanks of the fire with backing and flanking fire. In the evening and overnight, the fire has been driven by down-valley winds in heavy dead fuels, primarily from the 2003 Robert Fire. Isolated single tree torching was observed within the fire perimeter, but spotting did not contribute to fire growth.
Due to fire activity, all campers, NPS employees and the Fish Creek Ranger Station have been ordered to evacuate the Fish Creek Campground. Fish Creek Campground Road is closed from the Camas Road junction. The Camas Road was briefly closed during the night as a precautionary public safety measure, but daylight showed it could be reopened. The Camas Road is now open again.
An Evacuation Warning from the Quarter Circle Bridge Road north has been issued. This includes Apgar, the Grist Road, and all areas accessed from Quarter Circle Bridge Road. An Evacuation Warning means people need to be ready to leave but are not being evacuated at this time. Trails off the Camas Road are now closed.
Evacuations: The Fish Creek Campground area is now under an evacuation order. Evacuation orders remain in place for the North Lake 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 and Avalanche Campgrounds.
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 Inside North Fork Road and the Fish Creek Road are closed. Multiple trail closures are associated with this fire. As of Sunday Morning, all trails off of the Camas Road are closed. 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.
A temporary flight restriction is in effect in the fire area.
Smoke monitoring information is available at: http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/
Phone Update: 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.
Glacier National Park Lodges, the concessioner that operates Lake McDonald Lodge, has decided to close Lake McDonald Lodge for the rest of the 2018 summer season. Questions about adjustments to reservations should be directed to 855-733-4522. Privately owned Motel Lake McDonald has also closed for the season. Reservation holders should contact 1-844-868-7474.
Reporting by David Sherman for MTN News