Several structures lost in Glacier National Park wildfire

Posted at 10:59 AM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 12:59:31-04

WEST GLACIER – Glacier National Park officials are still tallying up the destruction being caused by the Howe Ridge fire which burning near Lake McDonald.

Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley said Tuesday morning that approximately seven private summer residences and additional outbuildings were lost at Kelly’s Camp at the end of North Lake McDonald Road.

Alley adds in a news release that the main Kelly’s camp house, a second cabin, and other structures under National Park Service ownership were also destroyed.

One Kelly’s Camp home did survive the fire, as did multiple other privately owned homes and structures in other areas of North McDonald Road.

The National Park Service believes that three outbuildings of the National Park Service-owned Wheeler residence, the Wheeler boathouse and the boathouse at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station were lost, according to Alley.  

Mobile viewers click here to view a photo gallery from the Howe Creek fire.

Firefighters were able to save the main Wheeler cabin even after it caught fire. The Lake McDonald Ranger Station was also saved, following a fire on its roof.

“This is a heartbreaking time at the park,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “We’ve lost extremely important historic buildings that tell a piece of the park’s story, and multiple people have lost homes that have welcomed their families to the shores of Lake McDonald for generations.”

Kelly’s Camp, located along the west shore of the north end of Lake McDonald, began as a cabin resort developed by Frank and Emmeline Kelly in the early years of the park.

Homesteaded by Frank Kelly in 1894, by 1931 it had become a popular summer cabin resort. In the 1960s cabins were sold to individual owners, many of whom were longtime Kelly’s visitors, continuing the cabin community.

The Wheeler Complex, east of Kelly’s camp, was owned by Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler and was used by Senator Wheeler and his family as their summer home starting in 1916. The National Park Service acquired the property in 2014.

The Howe Ridge fire, which was sparked by lightning over the weekend has burned an estimated 2,500 acres and forced evacuations on the west side of Glacier National Park.

The blaze made a significant run on Sunday night, prompting multiple evacuations on the North Lake McDonald Road, the Lake McDonald Lodge Complex, Avalanche and Sprague Creek Campgrounds, nearby hiking trails, and a portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

RELATED: Glacier NP wildfire evacuees wait for word on their properties