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Historic Cabins In Montana Destroyed By Wildfires


Wildfires are burning across the western U.S. from New Mexico all the way up to Washington. In Montana, the Howe Ridge Fire burning in Glacier National Park destroyed a set of historic cabins. Nicky Ouellet of Montana Public Radio reports.

NICKY OUELLET, BYLINE: Glacier broke triple-digit heat records the day lightning struck Howe Ridge and ignited a fire. By the next evening, the wind-fueled blaze had consumed all but one of the cabins at Kelly's Camp Historic District.

REGINA MCGEE: It's gone. It's gone. They're all gone.

OUELLET: Regina McGee had ties to Cabin 2. It's one of eight resort rentals that date back to the 1920s. They sat in a row, their open porches facing Lake McDonald, their single rooms walled with notched western larch and red spruce logs and clay dug from the lake bed to fill in gaps. Frank and Emmeline Kelly built them on land they claimed before Glacier was a national park. Families would come back summer after summer for vacation. The Kellys eventually sold the cabins to their repeat customers. McGee says this is where her son grew up, learned to swim, first fell in love.

MCGEE: The people of Kelly's Camp are in pain and not because of a building they lost. It lost a little bit of its spirit, you know?

OUELLET: Jessie Ravage is an architectural historian from New York who put together research that helped Kelly's Camp claim a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

JESSIE RAVAGE: To lose an entire area of the lake's development like this in a single fell swoop is - it's a big deal.

OUELLET: All but one of the cabins at Kelly's Camp burned Sunday along with a handful of outbuildings and two nearby boathouses. Glacier National Park is what's called a fire-adapted landscape. That means wildfire is expected here. But when it gets close to buildings and people, that's a problem. As Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow told homeowners at a meeting recently, they're not out of the woods yet.


JEFF MOW: I hate to say it, but I think we're 5 minutes into a 60-minute ballgame here, you know? We - we've got a long way to go before the summer's over.

OUELLET: He's played this ballgame before. In the last five years, three fires in Glacier have been close to tourist spots, including the popular Sperry Chalet Dormitory that burned last year and prompted an investigation. So signs and park rangers are educating tourists and directing them to other parts of Glacier just like last year. For NPR News, I'm Nicky Ouellet outside Glacier National Park. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.