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Slowing winds keep Glacier fire at bay

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WEST GLACIER, Mont. — Firefighters helped homeowners fireproof buildings on Sunday as weakened wind slowed a 43,000-acre wildfire that burned deeply into the west side of Glacier National Park.

Crews set up water pumps and hoses in an area of 20 to 25 buildings at the north end of Lake McDonald, park Ranger Scott Emmerich said.

They also helped owners clear away woodpiles and other flammable debris — including pine needles — off roads, he said.

The closeness of the lake made fire hoses more feasible than wrapping the buildings in protective foil or covering them with fireproof gel, Emmerich said.

Wind had failed to push the fire as far or as fast as officials had expected on Saturday. It slowed when it ran into areas that burned in previous years, and it seemed to be heading away from the buildings Sunday.

"There is a low probability of the fire reaching them," Emmerich said. "Odds are on it continuing on the track it's taking."

In addition, calmer wind was forecast Sunday, and fire crews hoped to take advantage of the change.

"They're going to take off building lines like crazy," information officer Wayne Johnson said.

Containment lines established last week were wiped when wind helped the fire more than double in size from Friday into Saturday.

On Sunday, overnight mapping showed the fire at 43,000 acres, about 3,000 less than fire managers had thought late Saturday. About 7,000 acres of that was in the park, also down about 3,000 acres from the previous estimate.

Incident Commander Larry Humphrey had about 1,000 firefighters available.

Firefighters were gaining the upper hand on two other major fires in south-central Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park, and fire managers were considering demobilizing some of their crews in a few days.

At least 18 major fires still active Sunday had burned about 150,000 acres in other Western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The center said crews were close to containing most of the largest fires.

California forestry officials said on Sunday that arson was believed to be the cause of a 720-acre fire west of Hayfork in Trinity County. Fifteen families were able to return home Sunday as crews had the blaze 60 percent contained.

That fire was about 30 miles southwest of another blaze that sent more than half the town of Weaverville fleeing from their homes Tuesday. The Weaverville fire was 90 percent contained by Friday.


On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: www.nifc.gov/

Northern Rockies Coordination Center: www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/nrcc/

Glacier National Park: www.nps.gov/glac/resources/fires.htm