Fuel Breaks Keep Hay Creek Fire Hemmed in Near Glacier National Park

In Lincoln County, containment improves at South Yaak and Burnt Creek fires; Hemlock Fire near Whitefish at 80% containment

By Tristan Scott
Evidence of the Hay Creek Fire burning up against Hay Creek Road west of Polebridge. Courtesy Flathead National Forest

Fire crews battling a 1,350-acre blaze near the community of Polebridge are working to keep the lightning-sparked fire hemmed in against Hay Creek Road and existing fuel breaks.

Dubbed the Hay Creek Fire for its location in the Hay Creek drainage west of the North Fork Flathead River and Glacier National Park, the fire was aided by cloud cover on Monday, when fire officials reported moderate activity and growth. The fire remained active on its west flank, however, exhibiting isolated and group tree torching, as well as short wind-driven crown runs.

The estimated acreage is likely low because crews have not conducted overnight infrared mapping since July 25.

The priority objective, according to an incident update Tuesday, is to hold the fire line at the Hay Creek Road, which tracks along the fire’s southern perimeter.

Crews are laying hose and will potentially initiate firing operations to burn the remaining available fuels along the road if conditions allow. Spot fires to the south of the road were checked by bucket drops for the second day on Monday, while heavy equipment task forces will continue to widen existing roads, connect existing fuel breaks and silvicultural forest treatments conducted in 2018, and build contingency lines.

An evacuation warning remains in place for dozens of residents in the community of Polebridge, as well as those along the North Fork Road between Moose Creek Road and Home Ranch Bottoms; all residents with driveway access on Moose Creek Road; and all residents with driveway access from Red Meadow Road.

Glacier National Park officials noted that the fire could “potentially affect park visitation,” although it hasn’t reached the park. As a precautionary measure, in case the fire does expand that direction, the park isn’t issuing backcountry permits for areas north of Polebridge, including the Quartz, Bowman, Akokala, Kintla, Kishenehn and Round Prairie drainages. No areas of Glacier Park are closed at this time, but the park has issued an evacuation warning to all visitors in the North Fork area of the park north of Logging Creek.

For more information about the Hay Creek Fire, including details about closures, visit today’s updated incident report. The fire is currently at 0% containment.

Meanwhile, four miles northwest of Troy in Lincoln County, the South Yaak Fire grew to nearly 2,000 acres on Monday, but a burnout operation on the fire’s southern fringe was successful, allowing firefighters to improve the containment of a pair of existing roads, Kilbrennan Lake Road and the East Side Road, girding the fire’s eastern flank.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has initiated evacuations for all Kilbrennan Lake Road residents, and crews are working to reduce vegetation near homes and structures, positioning sprinklers, pumps and hoses in preparation to defend the residences and structures. The fire is currently at 10% containment.

The nearby Burnt Creek Fire, located about nine miles southwest of Troy, has grown to 2,880 acres while containment has expanded to 31%. Some residences have been placed in the “set” category of pre-evacuation notice. All residents should be “ready” to leave if evacuations are necessary, according to Tuesday’s incident report.

For more information about the Burnt Creek and South Yaak fires, including details about closures, visit today’s incident update report.

At the Hemlock Fire south of Werner Peak and north of Whitefish, fire managers reported Tuesday that the 16-acre fire is 80% contained, while firefighters continued to work toward full containment and have already begun mop-up operations to secure fire lines.