WEST GLACIER – Close to 150 lightning strikes from a late afternoon storm Thursday set multiple fires in Glacier National Park and have forced several closures to popular areas.
“It was a pretty fierce storm,” said Glacier Park’s Lauren Alley. “We are still evaluating to see if we will have more fires from this storm.
So far, yesterday’s fires forced closures of the Sperry Chalet, numerous trails, horseback rides and overnight backcountry use.
Most areas of the park remain open, including all areas of the North Fork, Apgar Village, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Granite Park Chalet, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier.
The largest fire was burning in the Sprague drainage. Early Friday, it was estimated to be about 80 acres. Fires have also been reported in the Apgar Lookout area, the Nyack area and in the Camas drainage.
Fire conditions in the park are rated extreme. Fire managers expect the hot and dry conditions to last at least through the weekend.
Sperry Chalet guests were told they would either have to hike out via the Gunsight Pass Trail or remain in place while the Sprague Fire was being assessed. People with reservations for Friday night will not be able to access the chalet. The chalet is not in immediate danger, but the main trail accessing it is affected by the fire.
Glacier closed a number of trails, including the Apgar Lookout Trail, Howe Ridge Trail, Camas Trail, Trout Lake Trail, the Sperry Trail from Lake McDonald to Sperry Chalet (including all secondary trails such as the Snyder Trail), John’s Lake Trail, and Lincoln Lake Trail.
No horseback rides will depart from the Lake McDonald Corral Friday.
Backcountry areas in those areas are closed and users are being escorted out. Backcountry campgrounds impacted by the closures include Arrow, Camas, Snyder, Sperry, and Lincoln campgrounds.
Other backcountry areas in the park are open to day use, but no new overnight backcountry permits will be issued Friday as a precaution while the park searches for other new fires potentially started by Thursday's storm.
"That's the pattern that we've seen following storms," Alley said. "After they pass through, we'll start to spot fires a day or two afterward."
Most backcountry areas in the park remain open, including areas in the North Fork that had been closed earlier this week. Initial attack efforts on about eight fires started by a storm earlier this week were successful in either containing or putting out those blazes.
Alley said firefighting resources that had been assigned to the North Fork are being moved to help attack the new fires flaring in the Lake McDonald area.
None of the fires in the North Fork were allowed to burn for resource benefits due to the dry conditions that can lead to extreme fire behavior and the challenges in finding firefighting resources right now, Alley said.
A Type III incident commander has been assigned to the new fires in Glacier and additional resources are being ordered. The initial attack on the fires is being managed by the park and Flathead National Forest fire management staff.
Visitors should check the park’s trail status page for the most current closure information. https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/trailstatusreports.htm