WILDFIRES -- An expanding fire that recently broke out in Glacier National Park is a prime example of why hikers and campers need to call ahead, browse the Web and stay tuned in to the impact wildfires might have on their plans.
Heck, just getting to the North Cascades on Interstate 90 has been a hassle this week because of wildfire-caused highway closures near George.
The Newby Lake Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness of northcentral Washington has been blocking access to the popular Horseshoe Basin area for weeks. Although that closure could end soon, firefighters have responded to 14 fires after some 150 lightning strikes blanketed the area northeast of Tonasket Sunday night.
Fires are burning in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and other notable areas. And in this drought year, more are sure to come.
The Blue Creek Fire in the Blue Mountains has prompted trail closures on the Walla Walla Ranger District for public and firefighter safety. Forest Road 6400 (Skyline Road) from the junction of Forest Road 4600 to the junction of Forest Road 6500 is temporarily closed.
But Glacier Park is the most notable hot spot this week. Here's the latest information, just received:
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire on the east side of Glacier National Park is estimated at 2,000 acres.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed between the St. Mary entrance on the east side and Big Bend on the west side.
The St. Mary Campground is being evacuated. The campground has approximately 148 sites.
The Rising Sun Motor Inn, operated by Glacier National Park Lodges, and the Rising Sun Campground were evacuated Tuesday evening.
The St. Mary Visitor Center will close to the public at 12 p.m. today, July 22. It will be used as a fire staging area. The duration of the closure is unknown at this time.
Park rangers and personnel are searching for backcountry hikers in the area to evacuate them and direct them to safety. The parking areas of the St. Mary Visitor Center and the Apgar Visitor Center have been established as gathering areas for park visitors that may have been separated from their group.
The park is assisting visitors retrieve their vehicles that were left along the Going-to-the-Sun Road yesterday due to fire activity in the area. One vehicle was consumed by the fire.
The fire is moving quickly in heavy timber with extreme spread potential. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning in effect from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. today for Glacier National Park. This warning means that critical fire weather conditions are anticipated, including strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures. These conditions may create explosive fire growth potential.
Preplanning is being conducted for possible evacuation in the St. Mary area. National Park Service personnel are working in cooperation with Glacier County Sheriff’s Office and Blackfeet Emergency Management.
All interpretive programs in the St. Mary Valley are cancelled until further notice. There is a temporary flight restriction over the fire area.
A fire information phone line has been established at 406-732-7791.