ST. MARY – The Reynolds Creek fire in Glacier National Park got a new incident commander, but not really a new incident command team.
Greg Poncin handed over his duties to Chris Young of Grangeville, Idaho, and Young was scheduled to meet with local residents in St. Mary on Tuesday evening to discuss his plans for managing the 3,913-acre wildfire on the east side of the park.
Young is not new to the Reynolds Creek fire. He’s been serving as a supervisor on the fire line, according to fire information officer Mike Cole.
“He transitioned with Greg Monday,” Cole said. “It’s a different type of situation where there’s not really a difference in the fire team – it’s still essentially a type 1-sized team.”
Poncin headed home to Kalispell for some much-deserved R&R before his next assignment, which could be anywhere across the West. Cole noted that wildfire season is picking up steam, after a surprising lack of fires two weeks ago allowed considerable resources to be assigned to the blaze in Glacier.
“I seriously doubt the perimeter of this fire would be where it is if we hadn’t had the resources we had available,” Cole said.
The Reynolds Creek fire, believed to be human-caused, got up and running on the afternoon of July 21. It remained at 3,913 acres, and 67 percent contained, on Tuesday.
A predicted cold front with chinook-like winds for Monday night never materialized, Cole said, and at midnight, a portable weather station in the Two Dog Flats area said the temperature was still 78 degrees and humidity was just 20 percent.
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“I’m sure the fire burned pretty good last night with conditions like that,” Cole said. “At 4 a.m., people who were up in the fire camp were walking around in T-shirts. It was still 70 degrees that early in the morning, with just a light breeze.”
Heavy smoke kept fire activity down Monday but also limited water drops by helicopters, whose pilots were unable to see their targets, to just two loads. On Tuesday, enough smoke had cleared out to allow the copters to resume full activity, according to Cole.
Although skies over much of the park turned smoky Monday, little of it was from the Reynolds Creek fire. Most came in from wildfires in Washington and British Columbia.
In Glacier, fire in the Two Dog Flats area “has pretty much burned itself out,” Cole said, but in the past couple of days fire has been moving up the Rose Creek and Baring Creek drainages.
It’s being allowed to burn there – “It’s not doing anything a natural fire wouldn’t do,” Cole said, and it’s in terrain that could put firefighter lives at risk – but will be monitored closely from the air.
“When it gets into the higher elevations, it will run out of steam when it hits rocks,” Cole said. “What we don’t want is an east wind that could drop it into the North Boulder Creek drainage.”
That could potentially give the fire a path into the Swiftcurrent Valley and Many Glacier area.
“This is August, and if it starts warming, we’ll take action if needed,” Cole said.
Going-to-the-Sun Road remains closed from the St. Mary Campground just inside the East Entrance to the park, to Logan Pass. The fire is still active near the road, with unburned trees near the road that could still catch on fire, officials said.