Glacier Park Wildfire Closes Portion of Sun Road

Evacuation orders in place from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass

By Tristan Scott
The Howe Ridge Fire burning near Lake McDonald on Aug. 12, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

This story was last updated on Aug. 12. Click here for the latest wildfire news from Northwest Montana.

-Howe Ridge Fire forces closure of Going-to-the-Sun Road from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass

Evacuations ordered at Lake McDonald Lodge, Avalanche Creek Campground and about 50 private residences

-Two additional lightning-sparked wildfires burning near Numa Ridge and below Heaven’s Peak

-New fires east of Lake Koocanusa burn more than 2,800 acres

A growing wildfire in Glacier National Park has forced the closure of a popular segment of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and an evacuation order is in place from Lake McDonald Lodge on the park’s west side to Logan Pass, park officials announced Sunday night.

The lightning-sparked Howe Ridge Fire expanded due to spotting in high evening winds. Although the Lake McDonald Lodge initially remained open, park officials announced that its closure after 9 p.m. They expanded the evacuation order to include all businesses and private residences within the Lake McDonald Lodge complex, including the historic lodge.

Visitors and employees were notified of the need to evacuate at around 9 p.m. The Avalanche Creek Campground and residences along North Lake McDonald Road were notified of the need to evacuate at around 8 p.m. Sunday. The evacuation order affects campers at Avalanche Creek Campground, as well as about 50 individuals who own private homes on Lake McDonald and several National Park Service employees residing at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station.

The threatened structures are located at the north end of Lake McDonald. A structure protection team has been requested.

The south end of Lake McDonald including the Grist Road and Apgar Village are not under evacuation.

Visitors are asked to keep roadways clear.

At least three new fires were reported in Glacier National Park following a lightning storm late Saturday.

Glacier National Park spokesperson Lauren Alley said firefighters worked to suppress the Howe Ridge Fire, estimated to be 20 acres, which was burning in an area last torched by the Roberts Fire in 2003. However, their efforts were not successful

Two CL-215 (Canadian “superscooper”) airplanes flew for four hours, dropping water from Lake McDonald, however this was not effective in stopping the fire’s growth, according to a press release. The planes have been redirected to other fires outside of the park. Firefighters attempted to hike to the fire, but have not been able to engage the fire due to active fire behavior and concerns for firefighter safety.

The Howe Ridge Fire burned actively throughout the day and was easily visible from the Sun Road and the Lake McDonald area.

Ten smoke jumpers are working to suppress a fire located near Numa Ridge. They were supported by a helicopter that dropped water on the fire for several hours. The fire is estimated at 1.5 acres.

A third fire, the Heaven’s Sake Fire, was burning below Heaven’s Peak and was visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Firefighters attempted to reach the Heaven’s Sake fire located mid-slope on Heaven’s Peak by rappelling from a helicopter. Due to windy conditions, heli-rapellers could not access this fire, according to Alley. Fire managers will continue to assess options for fighting this fire, and heli-rappellers have been requested for Monday. The fire is estimated to be less than a tenth of an acre, and is burning in a portion of the forest that did not burn in the 2003 Trapper Fire.

The following trails were closed due to the three fires in Glacier: the Numa Lookout Trail, the Trout Lake Trails, and the Howe Ridge Trail.

The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information about these fires: 406-888-7077.

Weather conditions have been hot and dry, and the forecast indicates this weather pattern will continue, with temperatures increasing as the week progresses.

A number of new fires also started on the east side of Lake Koocanusa in Lincoln County, near the Ten Mile Fire, which has been burning since July. One of the new fires threatens a communications tower on Pinkham Mountain. Firefighters who were battling the Ten Mile Fire began initial attacks on the new fires and as of Sunday morning, the Ten Mile Fire, the Pinkham Tower Fire, the Huckleberry Fire, the Cliff Fire, and the Swamp Creek Fire had burned a combined 2,838 acres. More than 250 firefighters are assigned to the fires on the east side of the reservoir.

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