Sunday 25 September 2016

US wildfire rages unchecked for third day in Glacier National Park

Emmett Berg

Published 24/07/2015 | 08:32

A water bomber drops its load on a wildfire near Kelowna, British Columbia, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
A water bomber drops its load on a wildfire near Kelowna, British Columbia, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Flames from the Wragg fire burn vegetation near Winters, Calif., on Thursday, July 23, 2015. According to Cal Fire, the blaze scorched more than 6,000 acres and is threatening 200 structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A cow grazes as a plume of smoke rises above the landscape from the Wragg fire near Winters, Calif., on Thursday, July 23, 2015. According to Cal Fire, the blaze scorched 6,900 acres and is 15 percent contained. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A fireman works on a wildfire burning near Kelowna, British Columbia, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Firefighters look on as the Wagg Fire burns near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Wagg Fire burns near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A helicopter drops water on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A helicopter drops water on the Wagg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A helicopter carrying a load of water heads to the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Charred vegetation from the Wragg Fire is shown surrounding a home near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A firefighting helicopter drops water on a hot spot at the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Firefighters work to extinguish a smoldering tree at the site of Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Firefighters stand amid charred vegetation at the site of Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Firefighters tend to a smouldering forest floor at a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (front row, 2nd from L) and B.C. Premier Christy Clark (front row, fourth from L) pose with firefighters during a visit to a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Christy Clark visit a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) meets firefighters at a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) and B.C. Premier Christy Clark visit a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) and B.C. Premier Christy Clark visit a command post near the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
A hiking trail is seen amid charred vegetation at the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The remains of a burned structure is seen at the site of the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A firefighter looks on as a helicopter takes on a load of water to fight the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A firefighting helicopter takes a load of water to fight the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Firefighters look on as a helicopter takes a load of water to fight the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A firefighting helicopter takes on a load of water to fight the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Flame is seen on a ridge line at the Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa, California July 23, 2015. A rapidly expanding wildfire in Northern California is threatening about 150 structures and has forced evacuations in several rural areas as the wind-whipped blaze rips across parched vegetation, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
A pair of single engine water bombers return to Okanagan Lake for more water during efforts to fight the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
A trio of single engine water bombers return to Okanagan Lake for more water during efforts to fight the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
A single engine water bomber returns to Okanagan Lake for more water during efforts to fight the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
A single engine water bomber returns to Okanagan Lake for more water during efforts to fight the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Paddle boarders watch as a single engine water bomber returns to Okanagan Lake for more water during efforts to fight the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
The Westside Road wildfire burns in Kelowna, British Columbia July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
Paddle boarders watch as the Westside Road wildfire in Kelowna, British Columbia smoulders July 23, 2015. The B.C. Forest Service estimates the uncontained fire's size at 456 hectares (1127 acres), with an evacuation order in effect. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell
The Reynolds Creek Wildland Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Montana in this photo taken July 21, 2015. Strong winds and warm temperatures were slowing efforts to contain the 4,000 acre wildfire, forcing campers to evacuate near the eastern entrance and closing part of an iconic roadway popular with tourists, official said. Picture taken July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Erin Conwell TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
In this photo taken late Wednesday, July 22, 2015, a wildfire lights up a mountainside in West Kelowna, British Columbia. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
A road closure sign is seen just past the St. Mary Visitor Center, shutting down the road to any incoming visitors to Glacier National Park, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, near Browning, Mont. A fast-moving wildfire in the park torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Brenda Ahearn/The Daily Inter Lake via AP)
In this photo taken, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, smoke from the Reynolds Creek fire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. State Rep. Jenny Eck, who was hosting a delegation from Australia on a tour of the park, took this photo of the fast-moving wildfire. The flames torched a car and a historic cabin and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Jenny Eck via AP)
The Reynolds Creek Wildland fire burns, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, near East Glacier Park, Mont. A fast-moving wildfire in Glacier National Park torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes. (Brenda Ahearn/The Daily Inter Lake via AP)
A Los Angeles County firefighter fights a fire near Wrightwood, Calif., Saturday, July 18, 2015. The wildfire swept across Interstate 15 on Friday, destroying over a dozen vehicles before burning several homes in the community of Baldy Mesa. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
A burned-out car is seen on Saturday, July 18, 2015, in the rural community of Baldy Mesa, Calif. A wildfire swept across Interstate 15 on Friday, destroying over a dozen vehicles before burning several homes in the community of Baldy Mesa. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
The remains of a burned-out property is seen on Saturday, July 18, 2015 in the rural community of Baldy Mesa, Calif. The North Fire stuck Friday near Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, Calif. The 5.5-square-mile fire destroyed 20 vehicles on the freeway before burning three homes and 44 more vehicles in the community of Baldy Mesa. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)

Flames roared unchecked through heavy timber for a third day in Montana's Glacier National Park, where the main road has been closed through the eastern half of the park, along with two campgrounds, during its busiest time of year.

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The first major wildfire to hit Glacier in nearly a decade has charred roughly 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) since igniting on Tuesday just east of the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, officials said, and has defied firefighters' attempts to contain it.

A group of hikers initially feared to have been in harm's way returned safely, and no injuries have been reported, though one historic log cabin was lost, the National Park Service said.

A day after the wind-driven blaze doubled in size, firefighting resources were beefed up on Thursday, with about 200 ground personnel and six water-dropping helicopters assigned to battle the flames, according to fire management spokeswoman Katelyn Liming.

The cause of the blaze is unknown, she said.

The fire's impact was limited so far to the eastern side of the park. The picturesque Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects Glacier, remained shut down for about 20 miles (32 km) from the main entrance to the park's center.

The Rising Sun Campground and nearby motor inn were closed to the public, as well as the St. Mary Campground and several trails, including much of the popular Highline Trail.

The rest of the park, occupying more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) in northwestern Montana and straddling the Canadian border, remained open to the public.

Authorities also evacuated homes along the banks of Lower St. Mary Lake just outside the park as a precaution.

Liming said the last major wildfire in Glacier came in 2006, when flames scorched more than 34,000 acres (14,000 hectares) of the park and Blackfeet tribal land.

The park, named for the glaciers that sculpted its landscape millions of years ago and have been rapidly receding, draws more than 2 million visitors a year, with July accounting for the biggest monthly share of park admissions.

Liming said she was unable quantify the latest fire's impact on visitation. "There are still lots of people here," she said.

Wildfires in recent weeks have raged across several states in the drought-parched U.S. West.

Those posing an immediate threat to populated areas on Thursday included a 6,900-acre (2,800-hectare) blaze about 75 miles (120 km) north of San Francisco that prompted the evacuation of 200 homes and closed a stretch of a nearby highway. At least one building was destroyed.

In southeastern Washington state, about 120 residents were under evacuation orders for the fourth day as a 5,580-acre (2,260-hectare) wildfire threatened a watershed that supplies drinking water to the farming and college town of Walla Walla. One home has been destroyed since the blaze erupted in a wheat field on Monday.

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