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UPDATE: Storm Brings Forest Fires, Trail Closures To Glacier National Park

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Started by a lightning strike Thursday afternoon, the Sprague Fire in Glacier National Park was greatly diminished by Friday afternoon/NPS

Editor's note: This updates with new size estimate for Sprague fire, additional details on fire starts and firefighting efforts.

Multiple fires were burning in Glacier National Park on Friday in the wake of a powerful storm that rained lightning on the park and led to many trail closures.

The storm that pounded the park late Thursday afternoon "triggered approximately 150 lightning strikes" across Glacier, staff said Friday morning. Fires were suspected or known in the Apgar Lookout area, the Nyack area, Sprague drainage, and Camas drainage.

While the fire in the Sprague Creek drainage was originally estimated at 80 acres, by Friday afternoon it was revised downwards to 10 acres.

"A Type 1 and Type 2 helicopter are being used to drop water on this priority fire. Heli-rappel crews have been inserted to support fire suppression activities, and additional crews will be responding this afternoon," a park release said.

The Rogers Fire was estimated at 2 acres, though it seemed to be down to smoldering, with little to no smoke seen from it, the park added.

An overflight of the park was planned for Friday afternoon, with updates on fire starts, active fires, acreage involved, and closures in the park expected Saturday morning.

The following trails were closed Friday morning due to the fire activity: Apgar Lookout Trail, Howe Ridge Trail, Camas Trail, Trout Lake Trail, the Sperry Trail from Lake McDonald to Sperry Chalet (including all secondary trails such as Synder Trail), John’s Lake Trail, and Lincoln Lake Trail.

Backcountry campgrounds in the areas listed were closed and backcountry users in those areas were being walked out. Closed backcountry areas included the Arrow, Camas, Snyder, Sperry, and Lincoln backcountry campgrounds.

Other backcountry areas in the park remained open for day use, but no new overnight backcountry permits were being issued Friday to reduce the number of people overnighting in the backcountry while the park assesses the impacts from Thursday's storm.

Sperry Chalet guests on Friday would either hike out via the Gunsight Pass Trail, or remain in place while the Sprague fire was being assessed. Guests with reservations for Friday would not be able to access the chalet. Additional updates would be available as crews got a better assessment of the fire. The structures in the Sperry Chalet complex were not immediately threatened; however, the main trail accessing the chalet might be impacted by the fire.

Additionally, there were not to be any horseback rides from the Lake McDonald Corral on Friday. 

A Type III incident commander was assigned to deal with the fires, and additional resources were being ordered. The initial attack for the fires was being managed with park and Flathead National Forest fire management staff and law enforcement, including air support.

Most areas of Glacier National Park remained open Friday, including all areas of the North Fork, Apgar Village, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Granite Park Chalet, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier.

Fire managers expect hot and dry conditios to persist through the weekend. Additional trail closures were possible as conditions change or new fires are detected. Visitors should check the park’s trail status page for the most current closure information.

On top of the wildfires, the park Friday morning was experiencing a power outage on the west side of the park unrelated to the fires. The outage extended beyond the park boundary and might impact the park’s ability to provide up-to-the-minute fire updates.

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