Blog Cabin
Tuesday
Sep122017

Glacier still on pace for record year, even with fires 

(WEST GLACIER)- Even though much of the west side of Glacier National Park is closed right now because of the Sprague Fire, the park appears it could still set a record for visitation in 2017.

The park had been running well ahead of last year's record pace, which had seen 2.9-million people come through the gates last year. In fact, the park set an all-time monthly visitor record in July, when more than a million people toured the park. That was a 23% jump over last year.  

New statistics just released for August show 908,000 visitors came to the park, pushing the year-to-date total to 2.8-million.

The west side of the park's popular Going-to-the-Sun Road, and the McDonald Valley have been closed since the start of September. But the east side of the park remains open, so it seems likely the park will match last year's visitor mark, and could even break 3-million people for the first time ever by the end of this year. 

Monday
Sep112017

FEMA approves grants to help with Montana fires

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- The Federal Emergency Management Agency is coming through with additional money to help Montana meet the additional costs of fighting fires this summer.

FEMA announced yesterday it was releasing funds to help with the Rice Ridge Fire, Alice Creek Fire, West Fork Fire and the Moose Peak Fire. Rice Ridge and Alice Creek are lighting-caused fires that have been burning fiercely in Missoula, Powell and Lewis and Clark Counties. West Fork and Moose Peak were also caused by lighting and are burning outside Libby in Lincoln County. 

Governor Steve Bullock had made a personal visit to FEMA's administrator, Brock Long, last week to ask for the funds. It's critical because the state's own firefighting funds have been depleted because of the extraordinarily long fire season. 

The funds can be used to pay for up to 75% of direct firefighting costs.

FEMA previously granted money to help with the Lolo Peak Fire and the Lodgepole Fire. 

Monday
Sep112017

Clearing skies help crews on Rice Ridge Fire

Burnout operations on the Rice Ridge Fire Sunday- USFS photo (MISSOULA)- Although clear skies can mean more active wildfire, less smoke is helping crews renew their attack on the 135,000 acre Rice Ridge Fire burning in Western Montana. 

The blaze added roughly another 13,000 to 14,000 acres over the weekend, with a combination of new fire growth and aggressive burnout operations, as crews worked to keep the fire from spreading too far south and east near Ovando and Lincoln. 

Clearing skies meant fire teams were able to use aircraft on the fire for the first time in several days. There was also a large burnout operation, with aerial ignition devices being released from planes near Monture Cabin and Fore Road 477. Elsewhere, crews are using heavy equipment to expand and construct fire lines. 

Much of that attention has been focused on building fire lines along the west side of the blaze, which is closest to private properties. 

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office lifted all but a handful of evacuation orders for residents around Seeley Lake over the weekend. 

Monday
Sep112017

Perimeter of 51k acre Lolo Peak Fire nearly half-contained

Map shows extent of Lolo Peak Fire as of Sept, 11(FLORENCE)- The Lolo Peak Fire has now scorched over 51,000 acres, but fire crews have been able to contain nearly half of the big fire's perimeter with fire lines. 

Those new numbers come today after a weekend that saw the fire have renewed activity on the west, and in the Sweeney Creek drainage south of Florence. 

The fire, which was started by a passing lightning storm in mid-July, has slowed considerably over the past week, although there are still areas of activity, especially on the western edge of the fire near Idaho, and the southern edge above the Bitterroot Valley. 

As of Monday morning, crews have contained 46% of the fire's perimeter. The strategy throughout the fire has been to build perimeter control lines around the fire since its impossible to build line along areas where the fire has burned in steep, rugged terrain that isn't safe for fire crews on the ground. 

Tuesday
Sep052017

Rice Ridge Fire continues to grow, although much slower than Sunday

The Rice Ridge Fire blew up on Sunday to more than 100,000 acres- USFS photo (SEELEY LAKE)- The Rice Ridge Fire adds another 7,000 acres to its fearsome total. 

But the blaze had no where near the growth that was seen during Sunday's high winds, which pushed it beyond 100,000 acres. The total Monday morning is now just over 108,000 acres. 

Most of the fire growth continues to be to the north and east, as the fire pushes into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. However, over a thousand homeowners from Seeley on the west to Coopers Lake on the east remain under evacuation orders. 

One of the best fire teams in the country took over firefighting efforts this morning, as Greg Poncin's Type 1 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team is assigned to Rice Ridge. Poncin's team has already pulled two critical shifts on the Lolo Peak Fire this season, and has worked on some of the worst fires in Western Montana in recent years. 

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