More Firefighters Arrive to Battle Glacier National Park Fire

More accurate mapping puts the fire closer to 3,100 acres rather than 4,000 acres

By Justin Franz
The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park on July 22, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Updated: July 25, 11:45 a.m.

More than 450 firefighters are stationed on the east side of Glacier National Park to battle one of the top priority wildfires in the nation.

Over 450 personnel and seven helicopters are now fighting the fire, which is listed on the National Interagency Coordination Center situation report among the nation’s largest fires.

The Reynolds Creek Fire has burned more than 3,100 acres of land near St. Mary. For three days, fire officials at Glacier Park were reporting the fire had burned approximately 4,000 acres of land along the shores of St. Mary Lake. But on Saturday, officials were saying that a more accurate mapping of the area puts the total number of acres burned closer to 3,100.

The fire is currently 10 percent contained. It forced the evacuation of the Rising Sun area and the closure of a large section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Big Bend and St. Mary. The western side of the St. Mary Valley has also been evacuated and the community itself has been warned that they too may have to move should the fire run that way.

Residents on the west side of the park will be able to learn more about the blaze Sunday night at a public meeting at the West Glacier Community Building at 6 p.m.

»»» Click here for a status of what’s open and what’s closed in the park.

Three days after the blaze started, officials finally released a map of the fire that shows how it ran along the Sun Road and near the Rising Sun Campground and Rising Sun Motor Inn. Officials say damage has been minimal at the campground and all structures there were protected. One vehicle and one historic cabin have been lost in the blaze.

Today, firefighters will be building line in the Two Dog Flats area in hopes of preventing the fire from continuing northeast toward St. Mary. But those efforts may be hampered by wind. The National Weather Service in Missoula predicts consistent winds of 18 to 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 36 miles per hour this afternoon.

»»» Click here to view photos from the fire.

Relief could arrive later this weekend as cool, wet weather sweeps across Northwest Montana, including the high country in Glacier Park. The National Weather Service said snow could fall at elevations around 8,000 feet this weekend. Temperatures will begin to cool and winds will increase Sunday. The main weather disturbance will arrive Monday with the coolest temperatures of the week. The system could exit the area quickly Tuesday morning, with drier and quieter weather following for the remainder of the week, according to the NWS.

This corner of the state is suffering under drought conditions following one of the driest, warmest stretches of spring and summer on record.

Thursday night, a Type I Incident Management team, led by Kalispell’s Greg Poncin, officially took command of the fire that started Tuesday afternoon and went from a 2-acre burn to a 2,000-acre monster in just a few hours.

The fire has cost roughly $1.7 million. The cause remains unknown.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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