Update: July 22, 9:30 p.m.
A massive wildfire on the east side of Glacier National Park doubled in size on Wednesday and destroyed at least one historic structure and vehicle and forced evacuations on the west side of the St. Mary Valley.
Park officials reported that the Reynolds Creek Fire is burning in heavy timber and grew from 2,000 acres to 4,000 acres and was moving northeast, about 10 miles from the St. Mary Visitor’s Center.
The fire destroyed one structure, the Baring Creek Cabin, also known as the Sun Camp Fireguard Cabin. The historic cabin was located not far from Going-to-the-Sun Road, near Baring Falls and Sunrift Gorge. The cabin was built in 1935 and was the last remaining structure in the Sun Camp Ranger Station complex.
The blaze, which was first reported Tuesday afternoon as a small 2-acre burn, forced officials to evacuate the west side of the St. Mary Valley and close the eastern half of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, between Big Bend and St. Mary.
Glacier County Sheriff’s Office and Blackfeet Law Enforcement may continue with evacuations on the east shore of Lower St. Mary Lake. The townsite of St. Mary is being evaluated for possible evacuation. The National Park Service evacuated the employee housing area and administrative area early Wednesday night.
Spokesperson Denise Germann said that strong winds and warm temperatures fueled the fire throughout the day. Due to the windy conditions, suppression efforts were limited to helicopter bucket drops and some ground work. A Type I incident management team will be taking over the fire in the coming hours and Germann said additional resources are en route.
Park rangers also found backcountry hikers in the area of the fire and guided them to safety on Wednesday. It’s unclear if more hikers are in the backcountry and rangers will continue to patrol the area to ensure that everyone is safely evacuated, Germann said.
Other closures include:
— Gunsight Pass trail
— Highline trail from Granite Park Chalet to Logan Pass
— Red Eagle trail
— Piegan Pass trail beyond Feather Plume junction in Many Glacier
— All trails originating on the Sun Road in the closed areas
Several visitors were able to retrieve their vehicles that were left along the Sun Road yesterday due to fire activity in the area.
Though the fire continues to burn prominently, most of the park remains unaffected. All other areas in Glacier remain open, including the Sun Road from the West Entrance to Big Bend and the North Fork Road to Polebridge.
Backcountry permits are being issued at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Polebridge and Apgar.
At this time it is unknown what caused the fire.
Resources from Flathead National Forest, Glacier County, East Glacier, Babb, St Mary, and Cut Bank, Fire Departments, Blackfeet Fire Management, Montana Department of Natural Resources, Evergreen and West Valley Fire Departments and Flathead County are assisting Glacier National Park.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available throughout the day.