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Wildfire closes portion of Going to the Sun Road - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

UPDATE

Reynolds Creek holding at 4,000 acres, structure protection in place

Posted: Updated:
The view Thursday afternoon from the Glacier NP web cam at the St. Mary Visitors Center The view Thursday afternoon from the Glacier NP web cam at the St. Mary Visitors Center
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK -

The latest information from the Reynolds Creek fire burning on the east side of the road shows that the blaze slowed down overnight.

However, park officials caution that the growth of the fire is expected to increase Thursday afternoon because of the windy weather forecasted for Glacier National Park.

Structure protection is now in place at the Rising Sun area and additional helicopters and air tankers are expected to arrive at the scene on Thursday.

The blaze sparked to life on Tuesday afternoon and grew quickly, forcing multiple evacuations and prompting the Red Cross to set up a shelter for evacuees at Browning Middle School.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is remains closed between the St. Mary entrance on the east side and Big Bend on the west side of the park.


(Wednesday night update)

The Reynolds Creek fire burning on the east side of Glacier National Park keeps growing and is now estimated at 4,000 acres since sparking to life on Tuesday afternoon.

Glacier National Park spokeswoman Denise Germann says that more resources are arriving at the scene, including fire crews, helicopters, engines and an interagency incident command team.   

The fire is moving northeast and is located approximately 10 miles from the St. Mary Visitor Center along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Scattered light rain fell throughout the area, but strong winds and warm temperatures fueled additional acreage. 

Windy conditions and extreme fire behavior hampered firefighters on Wednesday and they were limited to aerial water drops and some on-the-ground crew work, according to Germann.

The blaze is moving quickly in dry, heavy timber with extreme spread potential. Germann says the main priorities at this point are the safety of public and fire-fighting personnel, protection of property and values at risk, and containment of the fire. 

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the St. Mary entrance on the east side and Big Bend on the west side and will remain shut down for an unknown period of time.

There are several evacuations in and around the St. Mary Visitor Center. Germann says that the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office and Blackfeet Law Enforcement have evacuated the west side of Lower St. Mary Lake and may continue with evacuations on the East shore of Lower St. Mary Lake.

Meanwhile, the townsite of St. Mary is being evaluated for possible evacuation.  The National Park Service evacuated the employee housing area and administrative area early Wednesday evening.

The St. Mary Campground in Glacier National Park was evacuated Wednesday morning, and the Rising Sun Motor Inn and the Rising Sun Campground were evacuated Tuesday evening.  The St. Mary Visitor Center closed to the public at 12 p.m. today and will be used as a fire staging area. 

The Red Cross set up a shelter for fire evacuees on Wednesday evening at the Browning Middle School in Browning.

Germann reports that several backpackers who were in the area of the Reynolds Creek fire have been found and are safe. Additional backpackers were located and will be escorted safely from the area.  

Meanwhile, park rangers and personnel will continue to search for backcountry hikers in the area to evacuate them and direct them to safety.  

Several park visitors were allowed to get their vehicles that were left along the Going-to-the-Sun Road on Tuesday due to fire activity in the area, however Germann says that one vehicle was consumed by the fire.    

In addition, the historic Baring Creek Cabin, a National Park Service backcountry cabin, was also lost due to the blaze.  No other structures have been burned, and no injuries have been reported. 

Resources from Flathead National Forest, Glacier County, East Glacier, Babb, St Mary, Cutbank, Evergreen, and West Valley Fire Departments, Blackfeet Fire Management, Montana Department of Natural Resources, and Flathead County are assisting Glacier National Park.  Glacier County and State of Montana Disaster Emergency Services are also providing assistance.

Fire information phone lines have been established at 406-732-7791 and 406-732-7790.   An email account has also been established for fire-related inquiries at reynoldscreekfire@gmail.com

The fire was first reported at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday and was located near Grizzly Point, approximately six miles east of Logan Pass. 


(Wednesday evening update)

The fire burning in the Reynolds Creek area of Glacier National Park has grown substantially since Tuesday afternoon with the blaze now pegged at an estimated 2,000 acres. 

More evacuations took place Wednesday, with the St. Mary Campground, which has approximately 148 sites, being evacuated. The St. Mary Visitor Center and National Park Service administrative area were also evacuated.

The Glacier County Sheriff's Office and Blackfeet Emergency Services are also ordering evacuations in areas adjacent to the park boundary.

The Rising Sun Motor Inn, operated by Glacier National Park Lodges, the Rising Sun Campground and the Rising Sun Motor Inn were evacuated Tuesday evening while the St. Mary Visitor Center and National Park Service administrative area were evacuated on Wednesday. 

The St. Mary Visitor Center is now  being used as a fire staging area. 

Park rangers and personnel are still searching in the park for backcountry hikers in the area to evacuate them and direct them to safety. 

The parking areas of the St. Mary Visitor Center and the Apgar Visitor Center have been established as gathering areas for park visitors that may have been separated from their group.  

Germann told MTN News that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is now open on the west side to Big Bend. But the east side from Logan Pass to St. Mary’s Visitor’s Center remains closed.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team is en route to manage the fire. There was some precipitation overnight and on Wednesday morning, but Germann says it wasn't significant.

The fire was first reported at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday and was located near Grizzly Point, approximately six miles east of Logan Pass. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. 

A fire information phone line has been established at 406-732-7791, as well as at (406) 732-7790. 

It should be noted that although there is no access to the St. Mary Valley, most of the park is not effected by the Reynolds Creek fire. Many Glacier and Two Medicine on the east side of the park are open and not impacted by smoke or fire.

- information from Dax VanFossen in West Glacier

RELATED: Shelter set up for Glacier National Park fire evacuees

RELATED: Missouri family races to escape Glacier Park flames, captures dramatic video


(original story)

A fire in Glacier National Park has grown up to 1,000 acres  in just a matter of hours and is  moving quickly in heavy timber with extreme spread potential.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the St. Mary entrance on the east side and Avalanche on the west side. The Rising Sun Motor Inn, operated by Glacier National Park Lodges and the Rising Sun Campground were evacuated on Tuesday evening.  

Meanwhile, park rangers and personnel are searching for backcountry hikers in the area to evacuate them and direct them to safety.  

The parking areas of the St. Mary Visitor Center and the Apgar Visitor Center have been established as gathering areas for park visitors that may have been separated from their group. A fire information phone line has been established at 406-732-7791. 

:"We are still in Stage 1 Fire Restrictions throughout northwest Montana, including Glacier National Park. So, folks need to remember that. Campfires are only in designated sites and if you're smoking, you need to have a three-foot barren area circumference around you. So, please keep that in mind. We have had some recent moisture but it's not enough to make a big difference," Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

A Type II Interagency Incident Command Team has been ordered and should arrive to fight the blaze in the Reynolds Creek area.

Germann says resources from Flathead National Forest, Glacier County, East Glacier, Babb, St Mary, and Cutbank, Fire Departments, Blackfeet Fire Management, Montana Department of Natural Resources, Evergreen and West Valley Fire departments and Flathead County are assisting Glacier National Park with the fire..   

The fire was first reported at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday and was located near Grizzly Point, approximately six miles east of Logan Pass. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. 

Germann says it's not known at this time when the east side of the park will reopen.

Firefighters could face an even bigger challenge from the weather on Wednesday. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for the area from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. with wind gusts of 30 mph possible.

- information from Amy Pholphiboun included in this report.

WEATHER
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