Glacier Park Fire Grows As More Hot, Dry Weather Arrives

Controlled burn planned for Blue Bay Fire along Flathead Lake this afternoon

By Justin Franz
The Sprague Fire burns east of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park on Aug. 11, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Latest

The Sprague Fire grows to 100 acres in Glacier National Park

Sperry Chalet could remain closed for the rest of the season

-Blue Bay Fire on Flathead Lake has burned 55 acres

Updated: Aug. 15, 2:45 p.m.

A fire burning in the mountains east of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park has grown to 100 acres and National Park Service officials say it is possible the nearby Sperry Chalet may not reopen this year.

The lightning-caused Sprague Fire is burning above Crystal Ford on the Gunsight Pass Trail, the primary route from the Lake McDonald Lodge to Sperry Chalet. Spokesperson Lauren Alley said the fire is not immediately threatening the historic chalet – built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913 – but firefighters are preparing to implement structural protection measures if necessary.

Firefighters are working to keep the blaze within natural and human-made firebreaks due to steep terrain and a concern for firefighter safety. Officials say it is likely the Sprague Fire will grow in the coming weeks and continue to burn until the first snowfall.

The park is also managing and monitoring three other fires that are all less than one acre in size, including the Adair Peak Fire in the North Fork. The fire was discovered on Sunday and is currently burning in heavy duff and underbrush.

A number of trail closures remain in effect, including the Howe Ridge Trail, Camas Trail, Trout Lake Trail, the Gunsight Pass Trail from Lake McDonald to Gunsight Pass (including all secondary trails such as the Snyder Lake Trail and Mount Brown Trail), and the Lincoln Lake Trail.

A handful of backcountry campgrounds also remain closed, although the park has again started issuing camping permits for other parts of the park. All front country campgrounds remain open.

On Tuesday morning, a Type II incident management team took over control of the 300-acre Tamarack Fire and the 100-acre Peoples Fire west of Kalispell. Both fires are burning in the Purcell Mountains north of U.S. Highway 2.  The lightning-caused fires were first discovered Aug. 12.

Near Eureka, the Gibralter Ridge Fire has burned more than 1,900 acres on the Kootenai National Forest. More than 460 personnel are assigned to the fire and, as of Tuesday morning, it was 12 percent contained. On Monday, residents who were evacuated when the fire erupted last week were allowed to return home, although the Sherman Creek, Griffith Creek, Therriault Pass, and Stevens Creek areas remain closed to the public.

The Blue Bay Fire near Flathead Lake had burned 55 acres as of Tuesday morning. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fire Prevention Specialist CT Camel said the fire is burning within a mile of Montana Highway 35 and firefighters plan to set back burns on Tuesday afternoon to eliminate the threat to local homes and structures.

National Weather Service meteorologist Lance Vandenboogart said additional hot and dry weather is on deck for the rest of the week, as well as afternoon winds that could complicate firefighting efforts across the region.

Strict fire restrictions are in place across Western Montana, prohibiting campfires and internal combustion engines without a spark arrestor in the outdoors. Stage II restrictions mean people are prohibited from using motorized vehicles off road; operating any internal combustion engines during certain hours; having a fire of any kind, smoking or using fireworks.

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