KALISPELL - Evening mapping of the Cardinal Creek wildfire - burning in the Bob Marshall Wilderness northeast of Seeley Lake - shows the blaze has spread to about 1,200 acres, more than three times its estimated size Monday morning.
Fanned by hot, dry winds, the fire is burning actively on the west and north sides of Kid Mountain (above Gordon Creek), and in the drainage divide between Gordon and Youngs creeks.
The blaze is on the Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest, about 18 miles southeast of Condon. On Monday, the smoke plume was visible from Seeley Lake across the Continental Divide to Choteau.
Because the fire is in a remote Wilderness drainage, it is being monitored rather than suppressed - although Forest Service staffers say they will protect historic backcountry cabins in the area if those structures become threatened.
Currently, several trails in the area are temporarily closed, including:
Gordon Creek Trail, No. 35 (from trail #263 to trail #212)
Cardinal Creek Trail No. 506
Cardinal Peak Trail No. 136
Kid Mountain Trail No. 628
Pilot Peak (Fossil Mountain) Trail No. 128
Cabin Creek Trail No. 205
The fire - thought sparked by lightning - is reported burning in heavy timber, in an area with considerable dead and downed trees.
For updated information about this and other fires, visit online at www.inciweb.org. For trail status information in the area of the Cardinal Creek fire, call (406) 758-5376.