Reynolds Creek Fire crews moved their containment efforts to the Going-to-the-Sun Road on Wednesday as the blaze slowed on the western perimeter.
The fire was reported at 67 percent contained at 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday, with nearly 4,000 acres burned since the Reynolds Creek Fire was sparked just over two weeks ago.
Fire Information Officer Mike Cole said 70 miles of hose was pulled from the from the west side of the fire, while three hot-shot crews were moved to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
“The number one goal on that fire has been to open up the Going-to-the-Sun Road again,” Cole said.
He said most of the fire activity was moving to the north end of the burn area, headed toward Rose Creek and Baring Creek drainages to higher elevations and away from Going-to-the-Sun Road. Smoke appeared from the north fork of Rose and Baring creeks, at a higher elevation than fire management had previously seen.
“That’s a positive,” Cole said. “We fully expect that over time those fires will continue moving around Rose Creek until they run out of vegetation and fuel.”
The Chief Mountain Hot Shots of Browning and Flathead Hot Shots of Kalispell will both take a required two-day break following a 14-day work period. As teams break away for the week, two more teams will return from their own break to replace them.
Cole said Thursday’s forecast was promising for firefighters at Reynolds Creek with temperature highs around 75 and 25 percent humidity. Wednesday saw about 18 percent humidity when the fire began moving toward Rose and Baring creeks.
InciWeb, an online incident information website, reported 384 personnel are currently on the job, but Cole expects about 300 fire personnel to be working the fire throughout the weekend. The operation lost one heavy helicopter to a fire near Boise on Wednesday, but still have five helicopters on site.
While the Rising Sun Motor Inn and Rising Sun Campgrounds remain closed, all businesses in St. Mary are open and ready for business, Cole said. Opening Going-to-the-Sun Road will remain as the highest priority for fire crews.
“The park superintendent and employees know how important that traffic up the Sun Road is to the local economy,” Cole said. “We’re working hard to make that happen.”
Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.