Friday, August 21, 2015

Update on Glacier National Park Wildfires

Below is updated information on the five wildfires burning in or near Glacier National Park. Over the last 24 hours there has been considerable developments with regards to the Sheep Fire near Essex on the southern border of the park. The blaze has grown to within 1 mile of U.S. Highway 2, forcing authorities to close the road at West Glacier and East Glacier, except to local residents. You can click here for current road status. Residents and businesses in the vicinity of Essex have been alerted for possible evacuation.

Stage II Fire Restrictions are in effect for Northwest Montana. A Red Flag Warning is also in effect for active fire behavior until 8:00 pm today. The fires will experience warm and windy conditions with southwest winds up to 30-40 mph shifting to the northwest later in the day. The fires are expected to become more active with increased spread under these conditions. A mobile fire retardant base is being used for helicopter bucket drops. Smoke conditions are elevated throughout western Montana. New closures are in effect for some trails in the vicinity of the fires for Glacier National Park and Flathead National Forest.

The Sheep Fire is about 2.5 miles south of Essex in the Great Bear Wilderness of Flathead National Forest. It is burning in very steep, difficult terrain with limited access. The fire was very active yesterday with the influence of the predicted Red Flag weather conditions. The fire spread northeast toward the Middle Fork and was about ½ mile from the transportation corridor last evening. A heavy helicopter was effective in applying about 29,000 gallons of retardant on portions of the perimeter to slow spread. Because of fire spread fire managers requested a closure of U.S. 2 at West Glacier (Mile Post 154) and East Glacier (MP209) with residents only allowed past these points. Access between MP178 (Walton) and MP185 (Bear Creek) have restrictions. Portions of the Highway 2 corridor around Essex remain in the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation strategy. Residents of Essex and surrounding area are advised to prepare their property and themselves for possible evacuation. People should load critical property and needs into their vehicle in preparation. They should have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone knows the plan. There are more than 200 structures at risk. The fire is currently estimated to be 232 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Thursday, crews assessed the area to determine the best plan of attack. They implemented structure protection measures on several backcountry cabins. Crews have been encountering numerous snags that need to be dealt with for safety before line construction. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed. The fire is roughly 65 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Thompson Fire is located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide.Crews made good progress yesterday mopping up some edges from burnout operations earlier in the week to contain the fire. Today, crews will continue that effort. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. The fire is estiamted to be 14,095 acres in size, with 0% containment.

Below is a map showing the areas affected by fires in the southern portion of the park:

The Waterton Lake wildfire is now 95% contained, and is still 'being held'. Parks Canada continues to work with the US National Park Service to manage the forest fire near Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. The fire remains approximately 25 acres in size. It's located on the slopes of Campbell Mountain, on the west side of Upper Waterton Lake. Five crews and one helicopter continue to fight the fire. The Lakeshore Trail from the junction with Bertha Lake Trail to Boundary Bay, and Boundary Creek Trail from Summit Lake to Boundary Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park are closed. Boulder Pass Trail from Francis Lake Campground to Goat Haunt; Boundary Trail from Goat Haunt to the International boundary; and Waterton Valley Trail from Stony Indian Junction to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park are also closed.

The Reynolds Creek Fire near St. Mary Lake continues to burn within the fire perimeter on the east side of the park. Holding and mop-up operations continue on the 4311-acre fire, which is currently 67% contained.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open through the park. For the most up-to-date information on the expanded trail and area closure statuses, please click here. You can also visit the Inciweb website, or call (406) 314-1669 for updated fire information. 

Although several wildfires are currently burning in or near Glacier, the rest of the park is still open with tons of outstanding hiking opportunities still available. Remember, the park is more than one million acres in size, and there's still plenty of epic Glacier National Park scenery to explore. For more information on many of the hikes in these areas, please click here.


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