Wildfire at Montana's Glacier National Park rages for fourth day

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2015 2:45 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A wildfire in Montana's Glacier National Park raged for a fourth day through heavy timber on Friday during peak visitor season, while another blaze in Northern California charred the mountains above Napa Valley wine country, officials said.

The 4,000-acre (162-hectare) Reynolds Creek Fire in northern Montana broke out on Tuesday and forced the closure of the main road through the eastern half of the park, which receives more than 2 million visitors a year.

Evacuations were ordered along a shore of St. Mary Lake, with about a dozen people leaving homes in the area, said Robert DesRosier, homeland security director for the Blackfeet Nation, an American Indian reservation on the eastern edge of the park.

The Reynolds Creek Fire has forced the closure of the Rising Sun and St. Mary campgrounds, a nearby motor inn and several trails, as well as a 20-mile (32-km) stretch of the picturesque Going-to-the-Sun Road which bisects the park.

The rest of Glacier National Park, which covers more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) in northwestern Montana and straddles the Canadian border, remained open to the public. The park receives more visitors during July than any other month.

The number of personnel assigned to battle the blaze had risen to 300 on Friday, from 200 the day before, according to the fire-tracking website InciWeb, which gathers information from multiple agencies. The cause of the blaze remains unknown.

On Friday, firefighters at Glacier planned to battle a spot fire near St. Mary Lake and complete a fireline around the head of the blaze near a site where prairie ground meets a mountain range, officials said on InciWeb.

Representatives from the team handling the fire did not immediately return calls for further details.

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

In Northern California, the so-called Wagg Fire spanning 6,900 acres (2,800 hectares) about 75 miles (120 km) north of San Francisco has prompted the evacuation of dozens of residents from about 150 structures, said Shelly O'Brien, a technician for the call center assigned to the wildfire.

The blaze is burning in the mountains above Napa Valley's famed wine country, said Randy Johnson, a communications coordinator for the Napa Valley Vintners. But wineries in the area continue to receive visitors.

The Wagg Fire, which is 20-percent contained, has destroyed one outbuilding and a tent structure.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)