The lightning-sparked Howe Ridge fire in Glacier National Park "changed in fire behavior significantly" Sunday evening, prompting the closure of the Going-to-the-Sun Road from Lake McDonald Lodge to Logan Pass, according to a late-evening news release from the park.
Park rangers were evacuating Avalanche Creek Campground. Lake McDonald Lodge remains open.
According to the release:
"An evacuation order is now in place for North Lake McDonald Road to Logan Pass, including Avalanche Creek Campground, effective immediately. This evacuation impacts about 50 individuals who own private homes, several National Park Service employees residing at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station, and campers at the 87-site Avalanche Creek Campground.
"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."
Just before 10 p.m. park officials ordered an evacuation of Lake McDonald Lodge.
The park has established a Fire Information Line with updated recorded information: 406-888-7077.
Sunday saw wildland firefighters, helicopters and "Super Scooper" planes deployed around western Montana to combat several new wildfires started by Saturday’s dry lightning.
Three of those are in Glacier National Park, including the Howe Ridge fire, according to park spokeswoman Lauren Alley.
Travelers on the Going-to-the-Sun Road were able to see the Heavens Sake fire burning below Heavens Peak. Rappellers were called in to help suppress that fire, Alley wrote in a news release.
Smokejumpers were deployed against an unnamed fire near Numa Ridge in the park’s North Fork.
“If you’re in the Lake McDonald area today, you may catch a bit of an air show,” Glacier posted on its Facebook page early Sunday afternoon. “We have the Canadian ‘Super Scoopers’ in the park helping us out with some fires that started last night from a lightning storm.”
The planes were attacking the Howe Ridge fire, and ground crews also hiked in to fight that blaze, Alley wrote. Earlier Sunday the park closed the Numa Lookout Trail, Trout Lake Trails, Howe Ridge and Howe Lake Trails. No acreage estimates for the fires were available Sunday afternoon.
Elsewhere in western Montana, the 18-acre Bear Springs fire was burning just southwest of Little Bitterroot Lake in Marion, according to a release from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Two CL-215 “Super Scooper” aircraft and a Type 2 helicopter from the DNRC fought that fire, and overnight activity was quiet.
On Sunday, firefighters and heavy equipment continued work on dozer and handline around the fire, with support from the Type 2 helicopter. No structures are threatened at this time, there are no closures, and no evacuations are in place, according to the DNRC. Check the FireSafe Flathead and Marion Fire Department Facebook pages.
Southwest of Eureka, a brief thunderstorm over the Tenmile fire area Saturday afternoon caused four new fire starts totaling an estimated 2,838 acres, according to a news release from the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team.
The Pinkham Tower fire started near Pinkham Mountain. Fire crews had earlier reduced fuels and done protection preparation around the communications sites, according to the release, “and that work succeeded in minimizing damage to the tower infrastructure.”
Two new fires, the Huckleberry fire and Cliff fire, burned together south of Pinkham Mountain Saturday night. A fourth, the Swamp Creek fire, was easy to access and a hotshot crew and equipment kept it to a quarter-acre, the release said.
On Sunday, crews continued to work to hold and secure fire lines and monitor unburned areas on the Tenmile and Swamp Creek fires. “Crews will continue to assess the Huckleberry/Cliff and Pinkham Tower fires and look for opportunities to engage the fires when safe to do so,” according to the release.
A pre-evaucation notice was in place for the upper ends of Edna Creek Road, Lake Creek Road, Sutton Ridge and Swamp Creek Roads.
For Forest Area closures, check https://www.fs.usda.gov/kootenai.
The Bitterroot Valley saw seven new fires, all on the Darby/Sula Ranger Distrit in the Sapphire Mountains east-northeast of Connor, caused by Saturday's dry lightning.
"Thanks to quick response by fire crews and aviation resources, all of the fires are small — less than 1 acre in size," according to a release from the Bitterroot National Forest.
The largest, the Cameron fire, is only three-quarters of an acre and is deemed controlled. All the others are about a tenth of an acre, the release said.
Five of the fires were either contained or out on Sunday, and containment on the rest was expected Sunday or Monday.
In response to Lincoln County wiidfires, the American Red Cross of Montana opened a shelter Sunday in partnership with the Eureka Church of God, 1295 Second Ave. E. in Eureka.