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Crews work to protect history from Glacier National Park wildfire

Posted at 2:59 PM, Aug 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-22 17:00:33-04

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – The Howe Ridge fire burning on the west side of Glacier National Park has scorched nearly 11,200 acres and fire officials don’t expect full containment of the blaze until November 1st.

Officials say the fire has burned over 17 square miles since being sparked by lightning and has also burned 13 homes and 14 other structures north of Lake McDonald.

MTN Reporter Nicole Miller was escorted by fire crews into evacuated areas on Tuesday to get a closer look at how they are using Lake McDonald and the trails in the area to help fight the Howe Ridge fire.

Crews have been taking advantage of the cooler weather to put structure protection in place at Lake McDonald Lodge and along the Going-to-the-Sun Road before the hot dry weather returns.

“The fortunate thing is we have this lake that we can use water and we’re not going to run out of water. That’s been a real blessing,” said Shane Ralston is a supervisor based out of the Missoula Smokejumper Base.

Intense smoke has been smothering the area and while the historic Lake McDonald Lodge still standing fire officials say the Howe Ridge Fire continues to threaten the landmark.

VIDEO: Timelapse video shows Howe Ridge fire’s massive growth

Ralston says that firefighter safety is his top priority as crews continue to battle the blaze, “the [tree] snags themselves are the biggest challenge the number one priority is to keep our firefighters out of harm’s way.”

Crews spent Tuesday putting structure protection in place around the park and are also taking advantage of the upper Lake McDonald Creek trail system by using it as they lay hose lines.

“We are using the trail itself as an access point and we are wetting down the trail all the way to the Lake McDonald Ranger Station area,” Ralston explained.

He added that although the return of hot dry weather is a concern, the Howe Ridge fire is expected to move away from the Lake McDonald Lodge area. A private company will begin to install a water apparatus around the lodge and the Going-to-the-Sun road on Wednesday, according to Ralston.

Reporting by Nicole Miller for MTN News


Evacuations:

  • The Fish Creek Campground area
  • 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
  • Sprague Creek Campground
  • Avalanche Campground

Road and Trail Closures:

  • The Going-to-the-Sun Road between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass.
  • The Inside North Fork Road
  • The Fish Creek Road
  • Multiple trail closures are associated with this fire
  • All trails off of the Camas Road are closed.

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.

A recorded fire update can be found at (406) 888-7077.