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Contact: Lauren Alley
West Glacier, MT –
Fire behavior moderated on Monday following more favorable weather conditions. Crews on the ground, supported by aerial resources worked to limit the spread of the fire to the north. Crews worked throughout the night Monday to suppress spot fires.
The fire is estimated at 2,500 acres. The weather forecast for the fire area is calm today but conditions remain hot and dry. Today, firefighters will continue to suppress spot fires along the north end of Lake McDonald. CL-215 “Superscoopers” and a K-Max helicopter will again be used to drop water, focusing on the north and southwest edges of the fire.
The lightning-caused Howe Ridge Fire made a significant run on Sunday night, despite active air and ground firefighting efforts earlier in the day. The fire activity prompted multiple evacuations on the North Lake McDonald Road, the Lake McDonald Lodge Complex, Avalanche and Sprague Creek Campgrounds, nearby hiking trails, and a portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
A structural protection task force from Flathead County responded immediately Sunday evening to protect private residences and National Park Service buildings along the north shore of Lake McDonald. While multiple buildings were saved, a number of structures were lost due to the extreme fire behavior. The National Park Service has not completed a full inventory of all infrastructure impacted by this fire run, and additional losses may be documented once crews are able to fully access the area. Fire is still very active in the area and crews continue to work to protect the remaining structures along North McDonald Road.
Approximately seven private summer residences and additional outbuildings were lost at Kelly’s Camp at the end of North Lake McDonald Road. Additionally, the main Kelly’s camp house, a second cabin, and other structures under National Park Service ownership were destroyed. One Kelly’s Camp home did survive the fire, as did multiple other privately owned homes and structures in other areas of North McDonald Road.
The National Park Services believes that three outbuildings of the National Park Service-owned Wheeler residence, the Wheeler boat house and the boat house at the Lake McDonald Ranger Station were lost. The main Wheeler cabin did survive, after valiant firefighting efforts that saved it after it caught fire.
The Lake McDonald Ranger Station was also saved, following a fire on its roof.
Kelly’s Camp, located along the west shore of the north end of Lake McDonald, began as a cabin resort developed by Frank and Emmeline Kelly in the early years of the park. Homesteaded by Frank Kelly in 1894, by 1931 it had become a popular summer cabin resort. In the 1960s cabins were sold to individual owners, many of whom were longtime Kelly’s visitors, continuing the cabin community.
The Wheeler Complex, east of Kelly’s camp, was owned by Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler, and was used by Senator Wheeler and his family as their summer home starting in 1916. The National Park Service acquired the property in 2014.
“This is a heartbreaking time at the park,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “We’ve lost extremely important historic buildings that tell a piece of the park’s story, and multiple people have lost homes that have welcomed their families to the shores of Lake McDonald for generations.”