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

Montana Wildfire Roundup for August 12, 2018

Update 9:45

Glacier National Park officials have expanded the evacuation order to include all businesses and private residences within the Lake McDonald Lodge complex, including the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. Visitors and employees were notified of the need to evacuate at around 9 PM. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass.

The Avalanche Creek Campground and residences along North Lake McDonald Road were notified of the need to evacuate at around 8 PM Sunday night.

Again, the Howe Ridge Fire northwest of Lake McDonald grew significantly due to windy and very dry fire conditions. The threatened structures are located at the north end of Lake McDonald.

Structure protection resources are on scene. The south end of Lake McDonald including the Grist Road and Apgar Village are not under evacuation. Visitors are asked to keep the roadways clear to allow for emergency traffic including those evacuating.

Updated information will be provided as available.

Update 8:30

This news out of West Glacier this evening: the Howe Ridge Fire northwest of Lake McDonald has expanded through spotting in this evening’s winds. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass. 

Avalanche Creek Campground visitors are being evacuated by park rangers. Currently Lake McDonald Lodge itself is open.

An evacuation order is now in place for North Lake McDonald Road to Logan Pass, including Avalanche Creek Campground, effective immediately. This evacuation impacts about 50 individuals who own private homes, several National Park Service employees residing at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station, and campers at the 87-site Avalanche Creek Campground. The threatened structures are located at the north end of Lake McDonald. A structure protection team has been requested.

The south end of Lake McDonald including the Grist Road and Apgar Village are not under evacuation. Visitors are asked to keep roadways clear.

Updated information will be provided as available. The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information: 406-888-7077.

Update 7:15 p.m.

A handful of new fires are now burning in Glacier National Park. The Howe Ridge Fire, estimated at 20 acres, burned actively today and was easily observed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Lake McDonald area. Superscooper airplanes flew for four hours, dropping water from Lake McDonald, however this was not effective in stopping fire growth.

The planes have been redirected to other fires outside of the park. Firefighters attempted to hike to the fire, but have not been able to engage the fire due to active fire behavior and concerns for firefighter safety. 

Ten smoke jumpers are working to suppress a fire located near Numa Ridge. They were supported by a helicopter that dropped water on the fire for several hours. The fire is estimated at 1.5 acres.

Firefighters attempted to reach the Heaven’s Sake fire located mid-slope on Heaven’s Peak by rappelling from a helicopter. Due to windy conditions, heli-rapellers could not access this fire. Fire managers will continue to assess options for fighting this fire, and heli-rappellers have been requested for Monday. The fire is estimated to be less than a tenth of an acre, and is burning in a portion of the forest that did not burn in the 2003 Trapper Fire.

At this time, there are no evacuation orders. The Going-to-the-Sun Road and all visitor services remain open.

The following trails have been closed due to fire danger: Akakola Lake Trail, Camas Lake Trail, Numa Lookout Trail, Trout Lake Trail, and the Howe Lake and Ridge Trails.

The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information about these fires: 406-888-7077.

Weather conditions have been hot and dry, and the forecast indicates this weather pattern will continue, with temperatures increasing as the week progresses.

Update 4:30 p.m.

A pre-evacuation notice has been issued by the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office for residents in the McQuithy Gulch and Marsh Creek areas.

Firefighters are working to suppress this 20-acre lightning-caused fire with dozers, skidder and air resources including helicopters and a single engine airtanker. The fire is southeast of Lincoln in the Poorman Creek area. It's burning in dense timber and thick brush; however, there has been minimal growth so far today. A Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 9 pm tonight due to continued hot temperatures, low relative humidity levels, and a chance of isolated, dry thunderstorms and windy conditions over the area.

Update 4:00 p.m.

Tenmile Fire: Dry lightning on Saturday night lightning started several new fires on the Kootenai National Forest. The Lincoln County Sheriff's office reports the Tenmile Fire is about 666-acres, the Pinkham Tower Fire is 335-acres, the Huckleberry/Cliff Fires: 211 acres and the Swamp Creek Fire: 1 acre for a total of 1,241 acres. The sheriff's office has issued a pre-evacuation notice for the following areas: Edna Creek Road, Lake Creek Road,Swamp Creek Road and Sutton Ridge Road. Keep checking the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office Facebook page or call 406-293-6295 for the most up-to-date information on evacuations. A public meeting is scheduled for 7:00 Sunday evening at the Trego School. 

Firefighters, meanwhile, are working on seven new fires caused by dry lightning storms that went through the Bitterroot Valley Saturday afternoon. Thanks to quick response by fire crews and aviation resources, all of the fires are small – less than 1 acre in size. The fires are located on the Darby/Sula Ranger District, in the Sapphire Mountains east/northeast of Connor, MT. The largest, the Cameron fire, is ¾ of an acre and is staffed with nine firefighters. It is currently controlled.

All other fires are roughly a tenth of an acre in size. Five fires are currently contained or out. Containment is expected on the others later Sunday or sometime Monday.

23 firefighters, and two helicopters are assigned to the blazes which are being actively suppressed. One chopper assisted with bucket work on several fires to limit spread until firefighters could reach them. Smokejumpers have been ordered and are in route to a small fire, the Shadow fire, that is currently burning on the border of the Bitterroot & Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests.

There were more than 35 confirmed lightning strikes on the southern end of the forest Saturday afternoon. Fire crews will be on the lookout for more fires today and over the next few days due to continued hot and dry conditions.

Fire crews also responded to and extinguished two illegal campfires last night. Fire danger is currently rated as “Extreme”. Stage 2 Fire Restrictions are in effect on the forest and in Ravalli County prohibiting campfires and all other fires. Camping stoves are allowed.

The lightning caused Goldstone Fire was detected on August 2. The fire started burning in a high elevation basin near Goldstone Pass, located approximately five miles west of Reservoir Lake or twelve miles south of Jackson, Montana in the Park Creek drainage in the Bitterroot Mountains, on the Montana and Idaho state border.

It is in steep mountainous terrain and is burning in heavy mixed conifer fuels. The fire is 0% contained. With the passage of yesterday's cold front, the Goldstone was very active and grew significantly. The fire experienced sustained winds of over 40 mph causing spotting to occur out in front of the fire. The wind driven fire moved in a southeasterly direction into Park Creek and is less than a mile from the Bloody Creek Cabin and Reservoir Lake campground. The fire also actively burned into Idaho. Firefighters are assessing the current fire perimeter, checking for potential hotspots outside the main perimeter, and developing future suppression strategies. An order has been placed for a Type 2 team. The Reservoir Lake campground and Bloody Dick cabin are closed. For more information contact the Dillon Ranger District (406) 683-3900. A community meeting is planned for tomorrow evening, August 13, at 7:00 at the Jackson Volunteer Fire Department in Jackson, MT.

In northwest Montana the Bear Springs Fire is estimated at 18-acres and is located just southwest of Little Bitterroot Lake in Marion. Two “Super Scooper” aircraft and a Type 2 helicopter from the Montana DNRC worked for several hours to slow fire growth, and fire activity was quiet overnight. Firefighters and heavy equipment are continuing to build dozer and handline around the fire while being supported with the helicopter. No structures are threatened at this time, there are no closures, and no evacuations are in place. Updates will be shared on the FireSafe Flathead and Marion Fire Department Facebook pages.

Firefighting continues on three fires burning in Glacier National Park

Update 10:30 a.m.

Glacier National Park reports three known new fires:

The Heavens Sake Fire, below Heavens Peak is visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Rappellers are on order to take suppression action on that fire.

Smoke jumpers are now ordered for a fire near Numa Ridge because there is a suitable location for the jumpers to respond.

A fire on Howe Ridge burned actively throughout the night. Visitors will likely see tankers scooping water out of Lake McDonald to fight that fire. Ground resources are also hiking in.

The following trails have been closed due to fire danger: Numa Lookout Trail, Trout Lake Trails, Howe Ridge and Howe Lake Trails. No evacuation orders have been issued for residents that live in the park.

The park does not have acreage estimates at this time and has established a fire information line with updated recorded information: 406-888-7077.

Update 9:00 a.m.

Sunday is shaping up to be a busy fire day in western Montana.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation reports lightning across northwest Montana started several new fires Saturday afternoon. 

DNRC's Ali Ulwelling says new starts have been reported on the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests, Glacier National Park, and Flathead County DNRC protection areas. 

Ulwelling says Super Scoopers - half boat, half planes that can guzzle up over 1,000 gallons of water in seconds - will be starting their day around 9 or 10 am working a fire on the northwest end of Lake McDonald.

Additional smoke reports are still being investigated and information will be shared by respective agencies when available.

Wildfire danger is now 'extreme' across most of western Montana. A single spark thrown by dragging chains, or an unattended campfire can quickly lead to a wildfire catastrophe. Stage II fire restrictions took effect at noon on Friday in west-central Montana. The restrictions prohibit campfires, smoking and off-road driving on forest land, fishing access sites and wildlife management areas in Missoula, Ravalli, Mineral and Sanders counties and on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Stage One Fire restrictions are in effect in Blaine and Hill Counties - they apply to all state, private, and Bureau of Land Management lands and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, part of which is located in Phillips County.

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