Campers flee Montana fire; California blaze threatens homes

A firefighter watches a helicopter battle the Wragg fire near Winters, Calif., on Thursday, July 23, 2015.  (Noah Berger/AP)

A firefighter watches a helicopter battle the Wragg fire near Winters, Calif., on Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Noah Berger/AP)

HELENA, Mont. — Firefighters braced Thursday for a fresh run by a wildfire that sent tourists fleeing from hotels and campgrounds in Montana’s Glacier National Park, while a blaze threatening hundreds of homes in Northern California shot flames 100 feet in the air.

Both states are ravaged by drought, and rising temperatures and strengthening winds greeted newly arrived fire crews taking aim at the blaze in the Northern Rocky Mountains. It has burned more than 6 square miles along the eastern side of the Montana park during prime tourist season.

The fire ignited Tuesday and then swept along ridges near the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, the park’s most popular roadway, heading toward the small community of St. Mary on the park’s eastern boundary.

More than 600 campers who fled the St. Mary Glacier Park KOA on Wednesday have been replaced by officials using the campgrounds as a staging area to fight the fire just over a ridge a few miles away.

Campground owner Susan Brooke said firefighters marked which of her cabins to save and planned to use the pool to fight the flames if the blaze moves closer to the community. Brooke sent her staff to safety, but she and her family are staying.

“There’s not much you can do about it but keep people calm,” Brooke said. “The guys, the firefighters, are good about keeping us in the loop about what’s going on.”

The fire destroyed Baring Creek Cabin, a historic backcountry structure, torched one abandoned car and closed 21 miles of the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road. Nearly 700,000 people visited the park in July last year, and about 95 percent of them traveled some length of the roadway.

No new evacuations have been ordered in the park Thursday.

Meanwhile, the California fire threatened 200 homes and ranches outside the Napa Valley. It had spread to more than 10 square miles Thursday, and black smoke could be seen as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento.

More than 520 firefighters battled the wildfire, struggling to access the blaze through rugged, brush-choked terrain about 45 minutes east of the popular wine country.

No wineries were at risk, said Capt. Amy Head of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Bryan Campbell said he remained hopeful that his brother’s ranch was still standing Thursday after the wildfire forced them and their neighbors to evacuate 85 horses.

“We had like 30 to 40 people show up to help, a bunch of people with trucks and trailers,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Campbell, his father and brother were among the last to leave the Windgate Training Center on Wednesday night.

“All we can have is a good attitude toward it,” he said. “As long as the winds don’t pick up, we’re hoping everything will be fine.”

Authorities said the cause of the California fire, which ignited Wednesday near Lake Berryessa, remains under investigation, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.

A wildfire also is raging in southeastern Washington state, where crews were working Thursday to prevent it from reaching a watershed that provides drinking water for the city of Walla Walla.

The fire has burned one home and more than 8 1/2 square miles, leading to evacuation orders for several dozen homes in two rural areas. The fire was human-caused and is under investigation, officials said.MontanaNapa ValleySt. Mary Glacier ParkUSwildfire

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A screenshot from SFPD body worn camera
New videos show police shooting man armed with knife, frying pan

Police say Antonio Estrada set fire to apartment building before shooting

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said he expected San Francisco to enter the purple tier within days.
Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner
SF still in the red but expects move into purple tier ‘some time soon’

Four more counties moved into highest COVID-19 risk category by state

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

Cal Junior Quarterback Chase Garbers completed 28 of 42 passes 315 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in his last game against Oregon State. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Big Game: Stanford at Cal

What: The 123rd Big Game When: Friday, 1:30 p.m. Where: Memorial Stadium,… Continue reading

Most Read