WEST GLACIER, Mont. – A wildfire forced evacuations in the most heavily used area of Glacier National Park on Monday, and destroyed a unknown number of structures around Lake McDonald during the height of the tourist season.
The “National Park Service”, said the 25-site Sprague Creek campground was evacuated, a day after the fast-moving fire forced the evacuation of the 82 rooms of the historic Lake McDonald Lodge.
A second campground with 87 sites and a number of private homes were evacuated, and a part of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun-Road was closed to traffic.
Park officials said in a statement that the structures on the north end of Lake McDonald were lost, but gave no details about the number and the type of. The officials had no estimate on the fire size.
The fire was one of several started in the park by lightning on Saturday evening. Windy, dry conditions on Sunday caused the fire to spread rapidly.
It is the second year in a row that the forest fires prompted evacuations around Lake McDonald. A blaze in the area last year destroyed the Sperry Chalet, an iconic backcountry lodge built in 1914.
Taylor Creasey of Whitefish said she and a friend drove to the lodge on a Sunday afternoon, after they heard about the fire, the Missoulian newspaper . They posted a video on Facebook of huge plumes of smoke hanging over the burning of ridges around the lake.
“We did not expect to see something that crazy,” Creasey said Monday. “It was so cold, but at the same time really hot — you could feel the heat radiating across the lake. It was windy and cold and warm at the same time.”
Two planes from Canada were brought in to help battle the fire, but officials said high winds prevented their pilots to fly close enough to the fire to be effective.