Howe Ridge Fire fight exceeds $10 million

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Hot, dry and windy conditions Friday spurred the growth of two wildfires in Glacier National Park and pushed the cost of battling the Howe Ridge blaze past the $10 million mark.

According to information from the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, the estimated cost of fighting the Howe Ridge fire reached $10.6 million. The fire was listed at 13,564 acres with 17 percent containment.

Helicopters dropped 187,325 gallons of water, mainly near the Inside North Fork Road, as the fire increased in the western area as well as north and south flanks.

The fireline along the road held, with no fire crossing to the west. Burnout operations did not occur. The fire crossed the Camas Creek Trail and moved into the Christensen Meadows area along the northwest perimeter of the fire. Fire north of the North Lake McDonald Road showed more visible smoke yesterday. Crews planned on Saturday to remove hazard trees along the Inside North Fork Road.

Evacuation orders remained for North Lake McDonald Road (private residences and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station), Lake McDonald Lodge area (all businesses, employees, and private residences) and private residences along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Sprague Creek, Avalanche and Fish Creek Campgrounds.

The Boundary Fire jumped 1,000 acres Friday due to the dry and windy conditions during the afternoon. The fire spotted north across Boundary Creek and the U.S.–Canada border, burning into Waterton Lakes National Park.

The fire moved north into a basin southwest of Bertha Lake. Natural rock barriers have restricted the fire’s movement to the east. The 2017 Kenow Fire burned much of the area to the north and west of this new area of fire and managers hope reduced fuels there may act as a fire break.

Fire crews hoped to hold the fire at the avalanche chute 1.5 miles to the west of Boundary Bay.

Parks Canada has closed additional areas in Waterton Lakes National Park due to the spread of the Boundary Fire. These new closures include the Bertha Lake Trail, the Lake Shore Trail, the Bertha Lake Backcountry Campground and the Bertha Bay Backcountry Campground.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is still open for 18 miles between St. Mary and Logan Pass, but it is closed to private vehicles for 30 miles between the foot of Lake McDonald and Logan Pass.

Glacier National Park is offering limited shuttle and tour services from the Apgar Visitor Center Shuttle Stop to Logan Pass, but free Park shuttle passes are limited and lines were long Friday as visitors waited to get a ride.

For more information on the shuttles, go to www.nps.gov/glac/learn/news/newsreleases.htm.

The North Lake McDonald and Fish Creek Roads are closed. The Inside North Fork Road is closed from Fish Creek to Logging Creek. Trail closures are associated with this fire; full trail closures are reflected on the park’s website at: www.nps.gov/glac.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place over both the Howe Ridge and Boundary fires. Drones can shut down critical fire operations, and launching, landing or operating drones is prohibited in Glacier National Park.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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