USA — The Arnica fire in Yellowstone National Park had grown to about 8,300 acres as of Sunday night.
The fire, which officials think may have been ignited by a lightning strike on Sept. 13, has forced the intermittent closure of the road between Junction at Fishing Bridge and West Thumb. On Sunday, the road was closed at 1:30 p.m. and it was not known when it would be reopened.
Park spokeswoman Stacy Vallie said 120 personnel are battling the fire near the northwest shore of Yellowstone Lake, focusing their efforts on protecting power lines, roads and buildings. Four helicopters and 17 engines were also on scene.
Park officials have released an air quality warning for those with heart and lung conditions due to smoke from the blaze, which is burning in a lodgepole pine forest. Visitors to the park are also being encouraged to drive with caution due to reduced visibility.
Worrisome weather conditions with wind gusts of up to 25 mph and low humidity are expected to continue today, then give way to snow showers and thunderstorms the next day.
“It goes from red-flag weather to snow on Tuesday,” Vallie said.
The Mac Pass fire burning 6 miles southwest of Helena also continues to burn on about 235 acres of beetle-killed lodgepole pine.
Today about 100 firefighters are expected to join an existing crew of 159 firefighters, said Brian LaMoure, spokesman for Lewis and Clark County Disaster and Emergency Services. A camp for the expanding personnel is being set up at the Lewis and Clark County fairgrounds.
A Northern Rockies Type II Fire Incident Team is also taking over command of the fire Monday morning.
The speed limit has been lowered to 35 mph on MacDonald Pass and drivers are prohibited from stopping in the area of the fire. Residents of Clausen Road at the base of the pass have been allowed to return home, but they are the only people allowed in the area. Residents of Rimini Road and Colorado Gulch have not been forced to leave their homes, though they remain on what is known as pre-evacuation notice.
LaMoure said fire officials are looking forward to reduced wind speeds and lower temperatures in the next few days.
Meanwhile, a grass fire that started late Saturday afternoon south of the Bridger Bowl ski area in the Flaming Arrow subdivision has blazed through about 350 acres. Erratic winds and high temperatures have fed the fire’s advance, according to Gallatin County Disaster and Emergency Services.
Bridger Canyon Road, which lies to the east of the fire, remains open, but officials are discouraging unessential traffic.
To the west, a 5,645-acre fire continues to burn about seven miles from Stevensville in the Bitterroot National Forest. Fire lines have been established around parts of the wildfire, which is known as the Kootenai Creek fire, but it continues to burn northwest towards Bass Creek.
Fire information officer Clare Delaney said firefighters had a good day on Sunday, when they were able to keep the fire about 10 percent contained despite high winds.
“The wind did put some spots out there and our ground crews were able to get around the spots, and none of the fire with heavy winds spread near our lines,” Delaney said.
An area closure remains in effect for the national forest lands within the Bass Creek, Kootenai Creek and Sharrott Creek drainages, as well as for road and trail systems.