Cooler, wetter weather forecast for the upcoming weekend may pump the brakes on the 2018 fire season, creating what meteorologists refer to as a “season slowing event.”
According to Andy Haner, incident meteorologist on the Howe Ridge Fire and the surrounding areas, lower temperatures combined with a chance of up to 1/3 inch of rain on Sunday will likely reduce the threat of new and continued fire behavior on the fires still burning in Northwest Montana.
“The kind of rain we are looking at coming up between now and the end of the weekend is usually indicative of a season slowing event,” Haner said. “Usually, once you get a season slowing event, it’s essentially a lot harder for a fire to get up and run.”
As September progresses, Haner said it’s bringing with it temperatures more indicative of fall, with highs lingering in the upper 50s through Saturday following a sprinkling of rain across the region on Wednesday and Thursday.
The rain expected for Sunday, however, could bring with it highs of around 50 starting next week and a potentially frosty Monday morning in Glacier Park, according to Haner.
He added that the snow level will likely drop with the temperatures, falling to around 5,500-5,000 feet, meaning higher elevations in the park might be looking at a couple of inches of snow over the weekend.
The onset of fall and subsequent increase in the likelihood of snow means a season ending event may be well on the way.
Shortening days, lower temperatures and lingering moisture in the air will steadily deplete the chances of fuels drying back out until the snow finally falls.
Until then, crews continue to fight and monitor the three major fires still burning in the Glacier Park area: the Howe Ridge, Boundary and Paola fires.
Officials have scheduled a community fire information meeting for all three at the Isaak Walton Inn today at 6 p.m.
The Howe Ridge Fire, burning at around 14,200 acres in Glacier National Park, saw minimal growth due to humidity recovery, cooler temperatures and scattered showers on Wednesday.
Around 200 firefighters still on scene achieved a total of around 20 percent containment and held their lines on the Inside North Fork Road without the need for air support on Wednesday.
Farther north in the park, the 2,900-acre Boundary Fire reached 14 percent containment as three Canadian helicopters delivered large amounts of water to the Eastern perimeter on Tuesday. Ground crews continued mop up operations and patrol.
Fire managers working the Paola Ridge Fire northwest of Essex also saw a break in fire activity as the blaze backed down slope on the northern front as expected.
Crews planned to continue monitoring the fire, which burned at 1,000 acres with 45 percent containment Wednesday, as it approached the dozer lines implemented above the railroad tracks where they expect it to stop.
In the northwestern tip of the state, the section of Montana 68, around Pipe Creek Road and the South Fork of the Yaak, previously closed due to fire danger from the Gold Hill Fire burning north of Libby reopened Tuesday.
Some short-term situational closures and slower traffic remained possible.
Fueled by timber litter and understory, the Gold Hill Fire stood at around 6,200 acres with around 500 assigned fire personnel reaching 26 percent containment on Wednesday.
For more information on all wildfires burning in Montana, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/.
Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.