This story was last updated on Aug. 8. Click here for the latest wildfire news from Northwest Montana.
—One home evacuated after Garden Creek Fire grows from 500 acres to 1,800 acres
—Fire danger elevated to “extreme” in Flathead Valley
—National Weather Service issues fire weather watch for Friday and Saturday
A wildfire near Hot Springs grew from 500 acres to more than 1,800 acres on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of one home.
Meanwhile, firefighters across the region are bracing for what could be a hectic few days with triple digit temperatures forecast for Thursday and Friday followed by a cold front over the weekend that could bring significant winds to Northwest Montana. The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for Friday and Saturday.
On Wednesday, fire chiefs from across the Flathead Valley held a press conference in Kalispell to plead with the public to be vigilant while working and recreating outside to keep the number of human-caused fires down.
On Tuesday, fire danger across Northwest Montana, including the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park, was elevated to “extreme.” No fire restrictions are in place in Flathead County, although surrounding areas have started to implement them. The Kootenai National Forest and Lincoln County have been in Stage 1 restrictions since last month. Parts of Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation will enter Stage 2 fire restrictions on Friday.
Stage 1 fire restrictions prohibit campfires outside of designated recreation sites or smoking anywhere outside of an enclosed vehicle or building.
Stage 2 fire restrictions prohibit any and all campfires, smoking outside, operating a vehicle off road or use of a combustible engine, welding torch or explosives between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Fire officials in the Flathead, including Flathead County, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park, said during Wednesday’s press conference that fire restrictions would be considered if the number of human-caused fires increased or if large wildfires stretched local resources thin.
“Right now any fire could get out of control very quickly,” said Flathead County Office of Emergency Services Manager Rick Sacca.
Because of the elevated fire danger, additional firefighting resources are being kept in the valley. As of Wednesday morning, two water scooper planes – CL215 “Super Scoopers” from Saskatchewan – and at least 12 helicopters were stationed locally in case a large fire started. Additionally, at least one locally based fire crew that was in California fighting fires there has been brought back to Montana where they will take rest and then be held here.
Although there are no fires in the Flathead Valley, a number of fires are burning in the surrounding area.
On Tuesday, the Garden Creek Fire grew from 500 acres to more than 1,800 acres near Hot Springs, forcing the evacuation of one home. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fire Manager C.T. Camel said most of the growth on Tuesday occurred on the south side of the fire, where the fire jumped containment lines late in the day. The fire is currently burning about a half-mile from the house. After the home was evacuated, firefighters burned tall grass and vegetation around it and on Wednesday morning officials were confident that the building was safe for now. Camel said the fire is expected to remain active, especially on Thursday and Friday with temperatures in the high 90s. A number of roads are currently closed because of the fire, including HS-4000, HS-5000 and HS-1000 between the HS-5030 junction and McGinnis Road.
As of Wednesday morning, the Ten Mile Fire on the east side of Lake Koocanusa north of Libby had burned 568 acres. Yesterday, the fire burned toward containment lines but so far has not crossed them. Firefighters are using helicopters with water buckets to keep the blaze at bay and it is currently listed as 18 percent contained. Further north, the Porcupine Fire had burned 17 acres as of Tuesday afternoon and was 90 percent contained. The Davis Fire near Yaak has burned 375 acres and is 20 percent contained. The Highway 37 Fire near Libby has burned 70 acres and is currently 90 percent contained.
Deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Brownstone Fire has burned 366 acres on the Spotted Bear Ranger District. Firefighters were working on making sure structures at the nearby Big Creek Work Center were protected.
The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for all of Northwest Montana from 3 p.m. Aug. 9 to 9 p.m. Aug. 10. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 90s and low 100s late this week, including in Kalispell.
This story will be updated when additional information becomes available.