Fire Update from Bill Walker, Aug. 20 AM

By | August 20, 2018

From Bill Walker…

I’m trying to sweep together some of the overnight material…

The community meeting to discuss area fires was huge — standing room only. Estimates of attendance ranged from 130 just for the folks crammed inside to as high as 200 when everyone standing outside the building was included. The general theme was that they were doing the best they could with limited resources. For the Whale Butte Fire, this means leaning heavily on heavy equipment to establish shaded fire breaks, mainly along existing roads and old logging roads. The Coal Ridge Fire isn’t doing too much right now. The plan for fighting it is similar to the approach used at Whale Butte — build fire lines with heavy equipment if necessary. Their biggest headache is the Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier Park. The shift in wind direction from the northeast is pushing the fire, which is now close to 8000 acres in size, along the west shore of Lake McDonald towards Apgar/Fish Creek.

The most popular announcement is that the incident management team has contracted with Flathead County to grade the North Fork Road, including the application of mag chloride for dust abatement. The current best guess is that they will grade from at least the Camas Road intersection north to the Wurtz airstrip. There are already multiple reports of grading work north of Camas.

In the park…

The Camas Road is still open and visibilities are improved this morning.

The Inside North Fork Road has been fixed up well enough for four-wheel-drive vehicles, but is presently closed due to concerns about the Howe Ridge Fire. In any event, it would probably only be available for official use even if it was open.

CORRECTION: Park inholders north of the Polebridge entrance are under a pre-evacuation warning. However, visitors can still enter and travel to both Bowman and Kintla Lakes.

For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.

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Karina Pettey put together a nice report on conditions along Moose Creek Road this morning. For those of you who didn’t receive it directly, I’m repeating it here…

It’s been busy at the west end of Moose Creek Rd. Here is a brief update.

Most important….we had a nice gentle rain shower directly over the whale butte fire and portions of west moose creek rd this morning, winds calmed with the rain and that just has to be good news. The fire

The predicted 48 hours of red flag winds did not materialize Saturday and the winds began to pick up on Sunday. The winds are from the NE (unusual) and it has pushed the fire over the saddle to the south side of Whale Buttes. The fire did not grow significantly Saturday after making a run on Friday and it did grow again yesterday. There is one type 3 ground crew working the south side of the butte watching for spot fires as the fire slowly moves south and east. The fire has also crept down the mountain on the north side and moved east. It is currently hunkered down in a drainage between the two buttes. It is currently about 250 acres. Fire managers have limited access to “on the ground” resources such as hotshot teams. There are only 2 teams covering the 4 fires under this Type 1 commander. So they are using equipment teams to come in and open up fire breaks around the mountain. On Saturday and Sunday, Moose creek was a traffic jam as large logging equipment moved into the area. Now we hope they can work!

Community meeting last night was informative. Highlights included:
1. A meteorology report and fire conditions forecast for the next several days. Today high winds are a concern.
2. Howe Ridge fire in the park is the #1 fire concern of incident command for this area. You can follow it in the news. Right now it is making a run at Fish Creek Campground and Camas Rd. Dozers and logging equipment have been brought in to help.
3. On the Whale butte fire
– 3 crews consisting of dozer, feller buncher, skidder and masticator are working to create the fire break on the north/south side of the buttes.
– if necessary and conditions/manpower resources permit, they will back burn into the fire to try and control it’s spread toward private property.
– From the county, door to door notifications are occurring of the pre-evacuation order that went into effect on Friday. Red Meadow, Moose Creek and Whale Creek roads are closed to all but local residents due to fire crew activity and proximity to the fire.
-Air quality is terrible
– county has completed a structure assessment for all structures in the closed area.
4. Best news of all. Incident command has contracted with the county to water, grade and mag chloride the NF road. I didn’t hear what portions. But any of it is great news given the current road conditions and all the heavy equipment.

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More as it occurs…

Bill

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About NFNews Editor

Patti Hart is the editor-in-chief and founder of the NFNews.net. Patti lives on the North Fork during the summers and travels the world for the rest of the year, updating NFNews every day wherever there is an internet connection.

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