Wind kicks up interior burning on Reynolds Creek Fire

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Winds fanned substantial interior burning on the Reynolds Creek Fire on Friday afternoon, July 31. (Reynolds Creek Fire photo)

Heavy plumes of smoke towered above the east side of Glacier National Park on Friday afternoon as a patch of fuel burned within the Reynolds Creek Fire.

“It’s mostly burning in the interior, up in the Rose Creek area,” said Nan Stinson, a fire information officer.

A spot in the northeastern corner fueled the increased burn. Stinson said that it was a pocket of vegetation up against some rocks.

Smoke rose into the sky and a portion of the plume could be seen from the Flathead Valley.

“It’s all natural, wind-driven, so it’s kicking up a lot of smoke,” said Sandy Nelson, another fire information officer.

After a short period of rainfall last week, low humidity and high temperatures are returning to the area, which adds to the probability of increased burning.

A firefighting force of more than 600 people is holding the outer areas of the fire at bay. The added burning is inside the 3,100-acre fire area.

“The perimeter is what they’re considering pretty secure,” Stinson said.

Friday’s resurgence of flames and smoke came on a day when a red flag warning was in effect for  breezy and hot conditions.

On Thursday, firefighters initiated a burnout operation to reinforce a cliff-face perimeter area behind Rising Sun Campground. The campground and the adjoining hotel of the same name were evacuated when the fire broke out on July 21 and began its explosive march along Going-to-the-Sun Road north of St. Mary Lake.

Officials said that the line is holding steady around the campground, despite spot fires that popped up Thursday more than a half-mile from the main fire but were quickly suppressed.

On Friday, ground crews worked near the increased burn area as seven helicopters continued to patrol and drop water.

The air support helps ground crews in hard-to-access places.

Going-to-the-Sun Road remains closed from Logan Pass to the St. Mary Campground, but it’s open on the west side. Firefighters have 63 percent of the perimeter contained.

The majority of Glacier National Park is unaffected by this wildfire.

ANOTHER FIRE was sparked north of Olney Thursday afternoon near the railroad tracks that line the east side of Upper Stillwater Lake.

Terry Groesbeck, who works with the Stillwater Unit of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said that flames grew in multiple spots. Fire didn’t jump the Old Fort Steele Trail, however.

“It’s pretty much between the railroad tracks and the road,” Groesbeck said.

The fire burned 2.5 acres but was quickly brought under control by firefighters, according to Groesbeck.

The state agency sent fire engines to the scene, and the Olney Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service assisted. A BNSF Railway track inspector also was on hand.

On Friday, 22 firefighters and two helicopters worked on the fire.

The fire remained an active incident on Friday afternoon, but Groesbeck said that crews made good progress.

“There’s not even visible smoke any more,” she said.

Online:

The view from St. Mary can be accessed through a Glacier Park webcam:  www.nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

For fire information, go to inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4405.

Reporter Matt Hudson may be reached at 758-4459 or by email at mhudson@dailyinterlake.com.

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