Crews Brace for Windy Conditions Amid Western Montana Firestorm

Crews Brace for Windy Conditions Amid Western Montana Firestorm

Source: Flathead Beacon
Click here to read the article: http://flatheadbeacon.com/2017/09/04/crews-brace-windy-conditions-amid-western-montana-firestorm/

Updated: Sept. 4, 1:20 p.m.

Firefighters are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst on Monday as windy conditions are fueling concerns about increased fire activity among multiple blazes across the region.

The Sprague Fire has forced the closure of a portion of Glacier National Park and evacuation orders are in effect for all residents and visitors from the south end of Lake McDonald to Logan Pass. This includes the Lake McDonald Lodge, concession housing, Kelly Camp Area, and the Avalanche and Sprague Creek Campgrounds. Logan Pass is still accessible from the east side of the park. The duration of the evacuation is unknown at this time.

Wind gusts up to 43 miles per hour were experienced in the area, leading firefighters to establish structure protection at Lake McDonald Lodge, which is roughly one mile away from the flames. The fire is growing in the Walton drainage to the south and is estimated to be 9,403 acres.

Crews continue to mop up around the Sperry Chalet, which was lost to flames last week. The Mt. Brown Lookout continues to persist, fire managers say.

The American Red Cross is offering shelter for those impacted by the evacuation at the Canyon Elementary School, 200 North Street in Hungry Horse. Call 1-800-272-6668 for information about shelter services.

A second major fire erupted in the North Fork region of Glacier National Park overnight, according to spokesperson Lauren Alley. The Adair Peak Fire near Logging Lake grew from 60 acres to approximately 1,200 acres, forcing the evacuation and closure of the Logging Lake Campground. The Polebridge Mercantile and Northern Lights Saloon both voluntarily closed early Sunday as a precaution but are both open today. Firefighters are doing structure protection at the campground and nearby ranger station. The lightning caused fire started the same night as the Sprague Fire and has been smoldering ever since.

Evacuation orders are in effect in Lincoln County. The sheriff’s office announced evacuations for Hutton Drive to the end of Bobtail Road. Pre-evacuation notices have been issued to residents from Bobtail Cutoff Road/Hutton Drive to River Road.

Authorities asking the public to avoid the Pipe Creek Road, Kootenai River Road, Quartz Creek Road, Quartz Mountain Road, Bobtail Road, and Bobtail Cutoff areas to allow for safe fire response and public safety.

The Caribou Fire has made significant runs and doubled in size to more than 16,000 acres. It is burning 21 miles northwest of Eureka. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office issued a full evacuation for the West Kootenai area.

An unknown number of structures have been lost to the fire in recent days. Firefighters worked late into the night to build containment line adjacent to structures in front of the fires. The sheriff’s office will be assessing the West Kootenai area where structures burned and notifying property owners. Fire managers will continue coordinating with Canadian fire managers on fire suppression activities.

Minimal fire growth has been reported on the Gibralter Ridge Fire and crews will continue to mop-up, patrol and monitor the west, south and east sides of the fire. Pre-evacuation warnings and closure orders are in place in the vicinity of the fire areas.

An information meeting for the Gibralter and Caribou fires will be held Monday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Eureka High School Auditorium.

The West Fork Fire is located in the Quartz Creek and Bobtail Ridge area on the Libby Ranger District and is now estimated at 3,679 acres, prompting a number of evacuation warnings just north of Libby. The fire is experiencing spotting and active fire behavior and with the windy conditions expect to see smoke in the air. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public to avoid the Kootenai River Road, Quartz Creek Road, Bobtail Road and Bobtail Cutoff areas to facilitate safe fire response and public safety.

A Type III team is in place to provide fire suppression and will collaborate with Lincoln County and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office to provide a coordinated fire response.

The Highway 200 Complex fires include the Readers Fires, Miller Fire, Moose Peak Fire and the Cub Fire on the Cabinet Ranger District and Deep Creek and Sheep Gap Fires on the Plains-Thompson Falls Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest. These fires are now estimated at 9,633 acres with zero percent containment. Area closures are currently in place around immediate fire areas and areas integral to safe fire operations. Pre-evacuations have been issued to residents near the Sheep Gap Fire. Mandatory evacuations have been issued to residents east of Plains near River Road West to Arnold Road.

Seven fires are currently burning in the Spotted Bear Ranger District on the Flathead National Forest and with active fire growth on several of the fires, district officials have closed trails for public safety. The fires are burning in the Bob Marshall and Great Bear Wilderness areas.  Significant stretches of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) are affected by the fires and trail closures.

For a map of all the trail closures within the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, visit the Flathead National Forest webpage.

The Rice Ridge Fire has burned more than 100,000 acres near Seeley Lake. The community of Seeley Lake and surrounding areas are threatened and multiple evacuation orders and warnings are in effect for Missoula and Powell counties, fire managers say. A community meeting is scheduled for Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Mission Bible Fellowship Church, 3158 Highway 83.