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Glacier fire reaches Inside North Fork Road

September 5, 2018 GMT

The southwest front of the 12,500-acre Howe Ridge Fire reached the Inside North Fork Road on Monday as heavy smoke erupted from a successful burnout operation along the road.

Firefighters began preparing the road weeks in advance with plans to use it as a natural firebreak.

As crews worked the fire line Monday, a helicopter assisted with bucket drops, delivering approximately 77,000 gallons of water.

Managers anticipated continued movement of the fire toward the fire line and road Tuesday.

Crews also continued to monitor areas displaying fire activity along the southeast aspect of Mt. Vaught. Minimal fire behavior was expected in other areas of the fire.

The Rattlesnake Fire, located 10 miles northeast of Hot Springs on the Flathead Reservation, was confirmed to be human-caused, according to C.T. Camel, fire management specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire.

Camel said the specific cause of the blaze was still under investigation, but investigators believed it started either inside or right outside of an old barn in the area.

The 160 personnel manning the local Type 3 Incident Management Team on the fire saw minimal growth Tuesday, with a gain of around 100 acres for a total of 1,300 acres and 55 percent containment.

Helicopter assisted burnout operations continued to further secure fire lines, along with the start of mop up operations on the fire’s perimeter.

Roads in the area, including Rattlesnake Gulch, Sullivan 3000, Deep Draw 4000, Irvine (Elmo) 1000 and Irvine (Windy Gap) 1000 remained closed Tuesday as the fire continued to creep through grass and timber along a steep west-facing slope.

Officials working the now 776-acre Paola Ridge Fire burning in the Flathead National Forest issued a warning to travelers driving along U.S. 2 near the fire to avoid stopping to observe the smoke as it may impede firefighting efforts.

Managers reported moderate fire behavior with visible smoke and a total of 45 percent containment on Tuesday, with 85 personnel, two crews and three engines remaining on scene.

Fire line security on the east side of the fire remained a top priority for crews on Tuesday as they began scouting for options for alternative line on the south fire perimeter near Dickey Creek.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.