A neon-pink sun rose this morning over a smoldering Western United States. Fire season is on in ski country. While wildfire is an essential process in these ecosystems, in terms of threats to human health and habitat, this summer is another scary one.
Currently, 93 fires are burning more than 50,000 acres across 10 states. So far this year, 5.7 million acres have burned in the U.S. Fires are also impacting British Columbia. Costs to affected communities are in the tens of millions of dollars. Eleven wildland firefighters have lost their lives.
Here are our updates on large, active fires impacting ski communities.
The Crescent Mountain Fire, sparked by lightning at the headwaters of the Twisp River Valley in late July, was less active over the weekend and exhibited moderate behavior early this week. Crews took advantage of the opportunity to construct and improve fire lines, and containment is at 37 percent. Thursday's warm and dry weather may increase behavior. Numerous residences are threatened.
North of Leavenworth, the Cougar Creek Fire, threatening some 300 residential and commercial structures, has also begun to demonstrate moderate fire behavior. Later this week, conditions will turn warmer and dry as well, and forecasted gusty winds may be problematic. Crews are aggressively working to secure the perimeter, and no structures have been damaged yet. Some Level 3 evacuations are in effect.
For more than two weeks, the Miriam Fire has threatened White Pass Ski Area from within the Goat Rocks Wilderness, on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. With continued warm and dry weather, it is expected to remain smoky this week. Due to the proximity to the White Pass community, the goal on this fire is to fully suppress, or extinguish it. Officials are hopeful for containment by September 1. White Pass is under evacuations Level 1 (be ready).
The Maple Fire is burning on the Olympic National Forest. This blaze was human-caused, and under investigation. Weather is not forecasted to moderate fire behavior, which threatens some structures and State Trust timber lands.
Sparked by an evening lightning storm last weekend, the Howe Ridge Fire on Glacier National Park grew rapidly in windy and dry conditions. Extreme fire behavior prompted campground evacuations and the closure of 32 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road early this week. The fire burned a number of historic structures and private residences on the shore of Lake McDonald. Conditions remain hot and dry, and the fire is still active.
Outside of Essex, the Paola Ridge Fire, also sparked by the lightning storm, is burning on the Flathead National Forest. Yesterday, firefighters implemented a fuel break near the railroad and Highway 2.
Early this week, the Tenmile Fire merged with the Sterling Complex on Kootenay National Forest outside of Eureka, northwest of Whitefish. Though air attack is limited, due to smoke, crews made good progress early this week, reporting 70 percent containment.
The Bacon Rind Fire is burning within the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, 20 miles south of Big Sky and 23 miles north of West Yellowstone. After being detected nearly a month ago, it is still exhibiting active fire behavior, prompting trail and campsite closures in Yellowstone National Park. It is still threatening to close the highway between Big Sky and West Yellowstone.
Early August lightning sparked the Monument Fire, burning just outside Ennis on the Beaverhead National Forest. Weather later this week is not expected to moderate fire behavior. Crews are also managing the nearby Wigwam Fire.
Early this week, the aggressively burning Rabbit Food Fire, 14 miles from Salmon on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, was exhibiting extreme fire behavior that did not allow for engagement of fire resources. A full suppression strategy of containment has been implemented. This fire is expected to maintain active burning with high temperatures, low humidity, and winds from the southwest. Some trail, campground, road, and area closures are in effect in the national forest.
South of Salt Lake, the Coal Hollow Fire has grown aggressively since early August, thanks to dry mixed conifer fuels and continued hot, dry weather. It started on the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and grew north, forcing evacuations and closures of U.S. Hwy 6 through Spanish Fork Canyon. The highway reopened late last night. This fire was still exhibiting extreme fire behavior midweek, and managers are concerned about its establishment in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
The quarter inch of rain on Monday did little to dampen the Bull Draw Fire, which is burning an hour northwest of the San Juans. Stormy and erratic winds did, however, help the fire gobble more extremely dry fuels. The blaze, now Colorado's highest priority, is projected to grow into the end of the week.
The Yosemite Valley inside Yosemite National Park has been reopened to the public after weeks of closure, as the Ferguson Fire exhibits increasingly moderate fire behavior and crews strengthen containment, which is now reported at 87 percent. Some road and trail closures remain in place.
Outside Mammoth Lakes, the Lions Fire is backing into the North Fork San Joaquin River, but significant potential growth is still possible—the fire may also jump the river. Thunderstorms are predicted for later this week.
August kicked off with the Donnell Fire, south of the Tahoe Lake area on the Stanislaus National Forest. Its start is unknown, but the fire has reportedly destroyed more than 130 structures, threatens more than 200 others, and has prompted evacuations, as well as road, area, and trail closures.