Suspicious fires in Glacier National Park leave a historic structure destroyed

The Ford Creek Patrol Cabin burned

Ford Creek Patrol Cabin burned arson fire
Ford Creek Patrol Cabin. NPS photo.

In northern Montana Thursday morning seven fires were discovered in Glacier National Park in the North Fork area. Park spokesperson Gina Kerzman said they have all been controlled but the Ford Creek Patrol Cabin built in 1928 which is on the National Register of Historic Places was destroyed.

Due to the suspicious nature of the fires, several investigators are on scene including the FBI and the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch, which is assisting remotely.

Anyone with information about the fires is urged to call 406-888-7077.

Resources responding to the fires included local county, state, and federal agencies with hotshot crews, engine crews, and law enforcement personnel.

The Ford Creek Patrol Cabin was built in 1928. The rustic log structure was a significant resource both architecturally and historically as part of a network of shelters approximately one day’s travel apart used by patrolling backcountry rangers.

The nomination of the Ford Creek Patrol Cabin to be on the National Register of Historic Places prepared in 1984 included this description:

“In 1928, Glacier National Park appropriated $2,000 for the construction of four identical snowshoe cabins. The Park hired private contractors to erect the buildings since the staff carpenter force was occupied with construction at Belton headquarters. Documents do not indicate the names of the contractors, although invitations to bid were sent to “several good log men in the vicinity.” The Park provided floor shiplap, roofing materials, cement, okem (chinking), cellar planks, windows and doors and their frames, shakes, and hardware. The contractor cleared the site, cut trees marked by the Park Engineer, built the cabin, and cleared the site.

“The project took three weeks and the cost for all materials and labor totaled $350. This cabin is one of many similar structures built in Glacier National Park during the 1920s and 1930s to facilitate the supervision of lands within the park boundaries. The park’s rugged topography and the often rapidly changing weather conditions made it imperative that these cabins be built at strategic points to protect rangers charged with park surveillance. The cabins were usually located 8 to 12 miles from a permanent ranger station. Thus, a park ranger could spend a number of days on patrol duty without returning to the station for supplies or shelter. The Ford Creek patrol cabin is significant because it illustrates an important aspect in the development and administration of Glacier National Park.

“It is a one-story, rectangular log structure with new corrugated metal on a gable roof, a metal stove pipe, and nine log purlins. The wall logs are saddle notched with sapling chinking and square-cut crowns. There is a concrete alignment foundation under the structure and porch posts. The roof extends to a full porch with a tie beam and vertical pole beneath the ends of seven purlins. There are shakes in the gable ends. The door is solid wood and “bear-proofed.” The windows are iron bars woven with barbed wire over six-light, wood frame casements. The structure is in good condition.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

National Park Service releases video about the Howe Ridge Fire

The fire burned 14,000 acres and more than a dozen structures in Glacier National Park in August, 2018

Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park
Howe Ridge Fire, August 12, 2018. NPS photo.

The National Park Service has released a video discussing the first 36 hours of the Howe Ridge Fire that burned over 14,000 acres in Glacier National Park in Northern Montana in August, 2018. The fire destroyed approximately 13 private homes and publicly-owned historic structures.

Below is text released by the NPS along with the video on August 1, 2019. The photos are NPS photos of the fire on flickr but no photographer credits or dates were provided.

Lakewood, CO – Today, the National Park Service (NPS) released a video documenting the first 36 hours of the Howe Ridge Fire, which took place at Glacier National Park. The fire destroyed private homes and publicly-owned historic structures on August 12, 2018.

The video documents steps firefighters took to attack the wildland fire initially, and the combination of factors that made initial attack unsuccessful. The video also documents evacuation and structural firefighting efforts.

The goal of the video is to share these efforts and raise awareness about this incident to other public land management agencies, people who visit and recreate on public lands, and residents who live in wildland fire prone areas.

Summary of Events
August 11, 2018, was a Red Flag day when a weather system moved through the region bringing little moisture and widespread lightning, 19 fires ignited across the Northern Rockies Fire Zone. Three of these fires ignited in Glacier National Park, requiring interagency fire managers to prioritize by considering values at risk. The Howe Ridge Fire was detected at 7:18 pm – all three park fires were deemed high priority fires. Firefighters caught the other two fires on initial attack due to a combination of factors, including access and weather conditions.

In the last 10 years, there were three other reported fires on Howe Ridge. Because the area is relatively close to developed infrastructure, all three fires were managed with full suppression tactics. One was suppressed at .1 acres, another at 2.3 acres, and the third was never found after the initial report. We presume that fire went out without firefighter intervention. In all cases, these previous fires were relatively straightforward to control.

Howe Ridge Fire Glacier National Park 2018
Two CL-415 scooping air tankers work the Howe Ridge Fire, Glacier National Park, August, 2018. NPS photo.

Continue reading “National Park Service releases video about the Howe Ridge Fire”

Reynolds Creek Fire on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP

(UPDATE at 8:30 a.m. MT, July 28, 2015)

Reynolds Creek Fire
Undated NPS photo of the Reynolds Creek Fire, Glacier National Park.

The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park in northwest Montana has been relatively quiet recently due to occasional rain. Heavy thundershowers on Monday kept helicopters on the ground for part of the day, but transported cargo when conditions permitted.

Firefighters are removing hazardous trees along Going-to-the-Sun Road which remains closed. Other areas closed include Logan Pass, the Rising Sun Motor Inn, and the Rising Sun Campground.


(UPDATE at 11:45 a.m. MT, July 26, 2015)

Skycrane helicopter Reynolds Fire
A Skycrane helicopter drops on the Reynolds Fire. Undated photo from InciWeb.

For the last two days, firefighters, aided by the weather, have been able to minimize any additional growth of the Reynolds Creek Fire burning in Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.

On Saturday crews took advantage of cooler temperatures to build new fireline and reinforce other lines along the St. Mary River, and extinguished spot fires near the southwest edge of the fire. Firefighters began laying hose along firelines to assist with mopup from Rising Sun to the northeast end of the fire.

Fireline explosives will be used Sunday to build fireline in an avalanche chute containing heavy brush and downed logs. The sound of the blast will be audible in the town of St. Mary, and is expected in the early afternoon.

The explosive firefighters use is about 1¼ inches in diameter and 50 feet long; it looks like a long strand of sausage links. The rope-like material is filled with a gel-like PETN material that explodes at 22,000 feet per second after being ignited with one detonation cap. Since the material comes in 50-foot sections, it can be laid out as far as a crew wants to build fire line. It is stored on spools which allow it to be unrolled as firefighters walk over the desired location for the fireline.

The Incident Management Team, led by Incident Commander Greg Poncin, reports that the fire has burned 3,158 acres.

In addition to blowing things up, Sunday personnel on the fire will also continue direct attack supported by aircraft, and expect to be dropping snags and clearing debris near the Going-to-the-Sun Road.


(UPDATE at 9:21 a.m. MT, July 25, 2015)

The Reynolds Creek Fire not long after it started on July 21, 2015. Photo by park volunteer Pam Smith.
The Reynolds Creek Fire not long after it started on July 21, 2015. Photo by park volunteer Pam Smith.

The Reynolds Creek Fire in Glacier National Park has not spread a great deal over the last two days. More accurate mapping shows that it has burned about 3,100 acres. Examples of some of these more accurate maps are below. Click on them to see larger versions.

Reynolds Creek Fire map 3-d
3-D map of the Reynolds Creek Fire, 10 p.m. July 24, 2015.

Continue reading “Reynolds Creek Fire on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP”