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Rattlesnake, Howe Ridge fires kept in check

September 2, 2018

Several wildfires continued to burn in Northwest Montana on Saturday, but the weather conditions and the efforts of hundreds of firefighters have kept things largely in check.

The Rattlesnake Fire, located 10 miles northeast of Hot Springs on the Flathead Indian Reservation, was listed at 1,200 acres after firefighters established where it was burning.

The fire was being managed by a local Type 3 Incident Management Team with 130 personnel assigned to it.

According to C.T. Camel, of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe Division of Fire, firefighters secured control lines with equipment and planes and helicopters.

“Burnout operations went well,” said Camel. “Division Zulu (southwest) is where the fire’s intensity was the greatest.”

Crews worked to secure fire lines Saturday on the southwest perimeter using burnout operations and aircraft assistance, including air attack, two helicopters, four SEATs, three dozers, six skidgens, six type 6 engines and six water tenders.

As of Saturday, road closures included Rattlesnake Gulch, Sullivan 3000, Deep Draw 4000, Irvine (Elmo) 1000 and Irvine (Windy Gap) 1000.

In Glacier National Park, the Howe Ridge and Boundary Creek fires didn’t expand much Friday.

Howe Ridge creeped through areas of heavy dead and down fuel near the Inside North Fork Road and smoldered on the northern perimeter above Upper McDonald Creek. Fire behavior analysts evaluated the north end of the fire Friday while on Saturday, crews continued to monitor and patrol along the McDonald Creek trail. They also prepared a plan to clear debris and remove hazard trees along North Lake McDonald Road.

They also monitored areas that displayed moderate fire activity along the southeast aspect of Mt. Vaught and the Inside North Fork Road. Smoke from the fire may be visible due to the fire backing in heavy downfall of the 2003 Robert Fire near the Inside North Fork Road. They also evaluated and tested pumps along Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and within an avalanche chute below Mount Vaught. Crews have begun to clear hazard trees along North Lake McDonald Road.

There were also helicopter water drops used on active areas on the northeastern flank of the fire. Crews provided structure protection for Goat Haunt Ranger Station, and worked to minimize the fire’s spread within Boundary Creek. Ground firefighting resources arrived to monitor fire behavior and direct suppression actions.

The majority of Glacier National Park remained open, including Apgar, Two Medicine, St. Mary, Many Glacier and the North Fork. The Howe Ridge fire was burning in less than 1 percent of Glacier’s 1 million acres.

Evacuation orders remain in place for the North 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 and Fish Creek campgrounds.

Going-to-the-Sun Road remained closed for 30 miles between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass. It was open for 18 miles between St. Mary and Logan Pass. North McDonald and Fish Creek Roads were closed. The Inside North Fork Road was closed from Fish Creek to Logging Creek. Full trail closures are listed on the park’s website at: www.nps.gov/glac.

The fires are managed by Mike Goicoechea’s Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team.

All aircraft were shared among the fires within Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest, including two Type 1 helicopters, one Type 2 helicopter and two Type 3 helicopters.

A Temporary Flight Restriction was in place over both fire areas. Drones can shut down critical fire operations and launching, landing or operating drones is prohibited in Glacier National Park.

For more information, go to inciweb.nwcg.gov

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

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