ST. MARY – Most of Glacier National Park had remained immune to smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire burning for almost two weeks on the east side of the park, but – like much of western Montana – other wildfires in the Northwest have now cast a haze across the skies above much of the park.
Webcams at Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, Park Headquarters, Goat Haunt and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River clearly showed skies with at least a grayish pall Tuesday morning, as – naturally – did the webcam at the St. Mary Visitor Center, just 4 miles from the head of the Reynolds Creek blaze.
Ironically, the bluest-looking skies Tuesday morning were visible on other webcams closer to the Reynolds Creek fire – at Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.
Winds in the St. Mary Valley have mostly blown smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire straight out of the park and across the western portion of the Montana Hi-Line, although Monday’s InciWeb report noted that “Heavy smoke in the area reduced fire activity over the majority of the fire.”
Going-to-the-Sun Road remained closed from St. Mary to Logan Pass. Authorities report that the Reynolds Creek fire is still burning close to the road on the east side of the park, with unburned trees near the road still having the potential to catch on fire.
The fire was listed at 3,913 acres Monday morning, or near the early estimate of 4,000 acres that was made before better mapping capabilities had lowered it closer to the 3,000-acre mark in the days after the human-caused fire began July 21.
The growth has come inside the perimeter, primarily in the Rose Creek and Baring Creek drainages, according to fire information officers.
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“They were allowed to burn, reducing the amount of fuel that could compromise the established fire line,” according to InciWeb.
Heavy smoke kept fire activity down Sunday, when 15 to 20 more fire-weakened trees along Going-to-the-Sun were identified and removed. Warmer temperatures were expected Monday, with a slight chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon and evening.
Ahead of the storms was a cold front that was expected to bring light rain and wind gusts of up to 40 mph.
On Tuesday, the temperature is expected to push 90 degrees.
More than 71 miles of hose has been used in fire suppression efforts here. The cost of fighting the fire has grown to $8.3 million.
It is listed as 67 percent contained. There are 467 personnel assigned to the fire, down from a high of 691 last week, but seven helicopters were still at work Monday.
Although Greg Poncin's incident management team has been in charge of the fire, officials announced through InciWeb on Monday that a new incident commander is scheduled to be introduced in a community meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Bear conference room at St. Mary Lodge.