Lightning Storm Sparks Three New Fires in Glacier Park

At least 19 new fires were reported across Northwest Montana

By Justin Franz
The Howe Ridge Fire near Lake McDonald. Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park.

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

—Three new fires forces trail closures in Glacier National Park

—Fire near Essex burns 40 acres on Flathead National Forest 

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

Updated: Aug. 12, 3:25 p.m.

Firefighters are scrambling to douse at least 19 new wildfires in Northwest Montana that started during a lightning storm late Saturday.

At least three new fires were reported in Glacier National Park; multiple new starts were found on the Kootenai and Flathead national forests; and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation was responding to at least one new fire in their response area west of Kalispell.

Montana DNRC spokesperson Ali Ulwelling said a plane was flying over the area on Sunday morning to get more accurate information about just how many new fires were started. Many of the fires appeared to be an acre or less in size, while other fires were 10 and 20 acres in size.

Glacier National Park spokesperson Lauren Alley said firefighters did not know how large the three new fires in the park were. The Heaven’s Sake Fire was burning below Heaven’s Peak and was visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The Howe Ridge Fire was burning in an area last torched by the Roberts Fire in 2003. Two CL-215 “Super Scooper” planes were expected to be dropping water from Lake McDonald on the fire on Howe Ridge. An unnamed fires was also burning on Numa Ridge near Bowman Lake.

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 Bear Springs Fire near Little Bitterroot Lake west of Kalispell had burned 10 to 15 acres, according to Ulwelling. The fire was active late Saturday but relatively calm on Sunday morning when firefighters were hoping to get a jump on containing it.

“It’s quiet right now and we want to keep it quiet,” Ulwelling said.

On the Flathead National Forest, the Paola Ridge Fire had burned approximately 40 acres near Essex by Sunday afternoon. USFS Spokesperson Janette Turk said four firefighters were monitoring the fire and heavy equipment was being brought in to try and contain it. Turk said a number of fires also started up the North Fork, but an exact number remained elusive on Sunday afternoon.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said local officials were keeping an eye on the fire situation across the county, particularly the Paola Ridge Fire due to its proximity to U.S. Highway 2, but as of Sunday afternoon no building were threatened and no evacuations were being planned.

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.

The Davis Fire near Yaak exploded from 380 acres to 1,700 acres on Friday. A public meeting about the fire will be held at the Yaak Fire Station on Sunday, Aug. 12 at 5 p.m.

Temperatures in the Flathead Valley are expected to be in the 70s and 80s today, a welcome cool down following three days of record-breaking heat. Due to windy conditions on the east side of the Continental Divide, the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for the east side of Glacier National Park.

This story will be updated when additional information becomes available. 

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