Glacier Park Prepares for Evacuations as Sprague Fire Continues to Grow

Fire managers say a cold front will bring winds from the east late Sunday, threatening to push the Sprague Fire west

By Justin Franz

The Latest

Evacuation warning in effect for Sunday from Lake McDonald to Logan Pass

Additional trails, campgrounds to close Sunday

-Firefighters expect dramatic wind shift late Sunday

Updated: Sept. 2, 12:40 p.m.

An evacuation warning will be issued for a large part of the west side of Glacier National Park as firefighters prepare for a cold front on Sunday night that is forecast to bring a dramatic shift in winds.

Firefighters are concerned wind from the east will push the Sprague Fire west toward Lake McDonald. As of Saturday morning, the Sprague Fire had scorched more than 5,100 acres and destroyed the Sperry Chalet, a national historic landmark built in 1913.

The evacuation warning, which will go into effect Sunday, stretches from the south end of Lake McDonald all the way to Logan Pass. According to park officials, visitors are being told they may have to leave that area if the winds shift and push the fire west. All trails accessed by the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the south end of Lake McDonald to Avalanche, including Trail of the Cedars, will be closed. The Sprague Creek and Avalanche Campgrounds will be open on Saturday night but will closed by noon on Sunday.

Park officials say the Going-to-the-Sun Road will remain open as long as it is deemed safe on Sunday.

The Apgar area is not included in the evacuation warning at this time and will remain open, according to park officials.

The Swan Mountain Outfitters will continue to guide horseback rides out of their Lake McDonald corral on Saturday, and Glacier Park Boat Company will continue to offer boat tours on Lake McDonald, with some schedule changes to accommodate concerns about localized poor air quality during mornings and evenings.

The lightning-caused Sprague Fire started last month and has been tormenting the Lake McDonald area for weeks. Thick smoke from the fire has blanketed the area, forcing the Lake McDonald Lodge and its surrounding amenities to close early.  

Additional evacuation warnings have been issued on the Kootenai National Forest as two fires there continue to grow. The Caribou FIre has burned 6,700 acres west of Lake Koocanusa and now threatens more than 400 structures in the West Kootenai area, a small community just south of the Canadian border. The Gibralter Fire east of Eureka has scorched more than 6,500 acres and is currently 27 percent contained.

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