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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For September 4, 2017

Fire engines deployed to protect Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald Lodge, September 4, 2017.
Glacier National Park
Fire engines deployed to protect Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald Lodge, September 4, 2017.

Updated 3:45 p.m.

It’s been an incredibly busy two days for firefighters and public safety officials across Montana.

After evacuating the Lake McDonald area in Glacier National Park yesterday, winds gusting to 43 miles per hour caused the Sprague fire to grow by about 4,000 acres. The park has been bracing for winds to shift, from east to west — a forecast that puts the evacuated Lake McDonald lodge in jeopardy. So far today winds on Glacier’s west side have been generally from the east-northeast, and low, only gusting to around 10 to 12 miles per hour.

Park Spokeswoman Diane Mann Kalger says crews are taking steps to protect the lodge this afternoon.

"We have a ladder truck now up at Lake McDonald Lodge, and we're just working on getting some photographs out to show that they're actually putting some sprinkler work and doing some work on top of Lake McDonald Lodge."

The Alice Creek fire northwest of Lincoln grew by nearly 6,000 acres last night, prompting evacuations at close to midnight for the Landers Fork and Elk Trail subdivisions, as well as the Alice Creek Basin and Tom’s Gulch. It’s unclear at this time how many homes are included in those areas.

Most Montanans work up to very bad air quality today from wildfire smoke. Air was categorized as “hazardous” in Seeley Lake and Missoula by the state health department.

That came after explosive growth on the Rice Ridge fire southeast of Seeley Lake and overnight evacuations of two subdivisions in Lewis and Clark County due to the Alice Creek Fire outside Augusta.

Rice Ridge grew by an estimated 45,000 acres yesterday, that fire’s perimeter is now more than 100,000 acres in size. There’s a public meeting about the Rice Ridge Fire in Seeley Lake tonight at 6 p.m. at the Mission Bible Fellowship Church.

There were also evacuations yesterday in Sanders County for the Sunrise fire, and in Lincoln County for the West Fork Fire. About 12:30 this afternoon the evacuation warning area for the West Fork Fire was expanded.

Evacuees from the Lolo Peak fire in Ravalli county were allowed very brief escorted visits back to their homes between about 9 a.m. and noon today.

Updated 10:25 a.m.

The Mineral County Sheriff's Office set in place evacuation warnings for Quartz Creek residents Sunday evening, meaning people should prepare to leave if fire conditions worsen. No immediate evacuation order has been ordered. The Sunrise Fire is burning 11 miles southeast of Superior.

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest has issued an emergency order as a result of the Park Creek Fire and the Alice Creek Fire closing all National Forest Service lands, roads, and trails north of Highway 200 on the Lincoln Ranger District.

Hill County will host a public meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, September 4 at the Havre High School to discuss the East Fork Fire burning south of Havre.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, members of the Forest Service, Incident Management Team, and Red Cross will hold a public information meeting for the Gibraltar Fire and Caribou Fire Monday, September 4  at 7 p.m. at the Eureka High School Auditorium.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality reports air quality across western Montana ranging from ‘Good’ to ‘Hazardous’. Find air quality information for your area: http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/

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