GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – The Howe Ridge Fire, which has destroyed historic cabins and forced evacuations, has seen a reduction in fire behavior which has allowed firefighters more suppression opportunities, but the area is not out of the woods yet.
Fire managers remain concerned as the blaze threatens a 500-year-old Cedar Hemlocks forest and they’re taking every precaution to make sure they have a plan intact if the fire makes another run.
Firefighters have been out this week out doing structure protection around the Lake McDonald area in the Avalanche Creek area where hoses and sprinklers are set up to protect the trees if the fire reaches them.
Old-fashioned plastic and duct tape have also been placed over areas on the trees where the high-pressure sprinkler system might impact the bark if activated. Fire managers say they found evidence of ember showers that did not ignite near the trees they believe happened when the fire made its initial explosive run.
Justin Kaber with the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team says if the fire makes another run and enters the area the trees are not fire adapted and would catch fire and easily fall over. But he says in the event that would happen heading into the Fall fire season — which he says is not over — the trees are ready and protected.
“The way it first started — how dry this summer has been — it’s not that far away as far as in comparison to how fires move,” Kaber said. “You know we’re only a mile probably from the fire front. It could certainly move this far in the middle of the summer or with the wind within a day.
Glacier National Park officials are also monitoring fire activity as the west side of the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road which opened up with limited access on Friday. While no private vehicles are being allowed due to safety concerns, shuttle and tour services will provide access to Logan Pass from West Glacier.