Fires Continue to Grow Across Northwest Montana as ‘Extreme’ Conditions Persist

National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warning through Saturday morning at 6 a.m.; Glacier Park fire grows to 500 acres

By Justin Franz
The Blue Bay Fire burns above Flathead Lake on Aug. 17, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Latest

-A Red Flag Warning is in effect for all of Northwest Montana until 6 a.m. Saturday

-Sprague Fire scorches more than 500 acres in Glacier National Park

-Two homes lost near Lolo as massive blaze jumps containment line

Updated: Aug. 18, 3:35 p.m.

A Red Flag Warning has been issued for almost the entire state through Saturday morning as “extreme” fire conditions persist in Northwest Montana.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for all of Western Montana until 6 a.m. Saturday. Meteorologists predict that gusty winds, higher-than-normal temperatures and low humidities will increase the fire danger across the region.

On Friday afternoon, fire managers from the Flathead Office of Emergency Management urged the public to be careful when working and recreating outdoors, noting that human-caused fires are a major concern. “Fire season is definitely not over yet,” Flathead County officials warned Friday.

The Sprague Fire in Glacier National Park had scorched more than 500 acres as of Friday morning. The fire is burning above Crystal Ford on the Gunsight Trail and has prompted the closure of numerous trails and the historic Sperry Chalet. Rugged terrain has complicated firefighting efforts, and officials hope to use natural features to contain the blaze. Firefighters installed sprinklers to protect the Sperry Chalet and wrapped the Mount Brown Lookout with protective material in case the fire spreads in those directions. Fire officials said it is likely the fire will continue to grow in the coming days and weeks.

The Flathead National Forest is dealing with a number of fires south of Glacier Park as well. The Scalp Fire has burned 30 acres in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The Dolly Varden Fire has burned 10 acres in the Great Bear Wilderness. The Reef Fire has burned 20 acres in the Bob Marshall Wilderness near Reef Creek. And the Cyclone Lake Fire has burned 30 acres in the Glacier View Ranger District.

In the Kootenai National Forest near Eureka, the Gibralter Ridge Fire has burned 2,700 acres and is 12 percent contained.

On the east side of Flathead Lake, the Blue Bay Fire has burned 270 acres, more than doubling in size after a significant uphill run on Wednesday afternoon. Firefighters set back burns this week in an effort to protect structures and houses in the area. A public meeting is being held tonight at the Blue Bay Campground at 7 p.m. where Lake County officials will discuss the possibility of evacuations around the fire.

The Tamarack Fire west of Kalispell had burned 340 acres as of Friday morning and was 30 percent contained.

Farther south near Lolo, at least two homes were lost when the Lolo Peak Fire jumped a containment line overnight. Missoula County officials said Friday the homes were among 750 that had been evacuated earlier. Some outbuildings also burned Thursday night. The fire has burned nearly 30 square miles of forest land southwest of Lolo. Evacuations were in effect along the U.S. Highway 93 and U.S. Highway 12 corridors.

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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