As of Saturday, the lightning-sparked Howe Ridge Fire has burned about 3,500 acres; for perspective, the park encompasses more than one million acres. The fire has destroyed numerous private homes and structures, but there have been no reported injuries.
The fire continued to move slowly south and west overnight through heavy dead and down forest fuels, primarily from the 2003 Robert Fire. Isolated thunderstorms are predicted to develop south and east of the fire area late in the day, which could cause gusty winds and increases in fire behavior.
On Friday smoke from the fire prevented air resources from dropping water on the fire. Structure protection efforts continue along the north end of Lake McDonald, using sprinkler systems around the remaining structures on North Lake McDonald Road. Crews are installing hoses and sprinklers to minimize potential fire spread towards the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Fire managers will continue to plan for protection of other areas as the fire progresses.
A Community Meeting will be held on Saturday, August 18th at 6:00pm. Fire personnel will present management plans for Whale Butte, Howe Ridge, Coal Ridge, and Paola Ridge fires at a Community Meeting at the Columbia Falls High School in the “little theater.”
Glacier National Park Lodges, the concessioner that operates Lake McDonald Lodge, has decided to close Lake McDonald Lodge for the rest of the 2018 summer season. Questions about adjustments to reservations should be directed to 855-733-4522. Privately owned Motel Lake McDonald has also closed for the season. Reservation holders should contact 1-844-868-7474.
Guided horse-back rides and boat tour operations in the Lake McDonald Lodge area are suspended until further notice. Commercial visitor services in most areas of the park remain open including Apgar Village, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is currently open from St. Mary to Logan Pass, but temporarily closed from Apgar to Logan Pass due to Howe Ridge Fire activity. That temporary closure includes the Lake McDonald Lodge Complex.
Evacuations: Evacuation orders remain in place for the North Lake McDonald road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station), Lake McDonald Lodge area (all businesses, employees, and private residences), private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Sprague Creek & Avalanche Campgrounds.
Road and Trail Closures: The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open between St. Mary and Logan Pass. It is closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. The Inside North Fork road is closed and multiple trail closures are associated with this fire. Please see full trail closures on the park’s website: www.nps.gov/glac.
Fire Restrictions: Glacier National Park and most of western Montana are under Stage II Fire Restrictions. No campfires will be permitted in Glacier’s frontcountry or backcountry. Smoking is also prohibited except within an enclosed building, vehicle, developed recreation area, or barren area three feet in diameter. Propane stoves that have an on/off switch are permitted.
The best source for current information on the status of Glacier National Park is the official park website (click here), or the Fire Information Hotline that has been established by the Park at 406-888-7077.