Robin Loznak  /  Great Falls Tribune via AP
The fire inside the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness area produced plenty of smoke Thursday as it burned near the Missouri River north of Helena, Mont.
updated 7/29/2007 5:41:54 PM ET 2007-07-29T21:41:54

A highway near Glacier National Park was reopened Sunday, just a half-mile from a wind-whipped wildfire, but a nearby lodge threatened by the flames remained evacuated.

Authorities escorted traffic on U.S. 2 through the area along the southern edge of the park in northwest Montana. Fire managers warned that it could be closed again if the blaze flared up like it did Saturday, when wind kicked it across control lines. A 24-mile stretch of the highway was closed Saturday.

“We’re expecting more of the same weather (Sunday) that crews had Saturday when they had problems,” said Dale Warriner, fire information officer.

“We are hitting a couple hot spots on the south side with some helicopters, trying to keep it from moving to the south,” Warriner said.

Guests and 18 employees at Summit Station Lodge along the highway remained evacuated as flames were within a mile of the facility, owner Jorge Simental said. The number of guests was not immediately available.

Fire crews were protecting the lodge and tearing down some trees that were close to cabins, Simental said.

The blaze remained active overnight and was growing toward the northeast, but no other structures were threatened, Warriner said. On Saturday, it grew rapidly from 420 acres to about 1,000 acres, or about 1.5 square miles, he said.

Heat, wind no help to firefighters
A fire north of Helena in central Montana was keeping people away from recreation areas and homes. The blaze, which had charred nearly 10 square miles, was 15 percent contained with “extremely significant” fire conditions expected Sunday, fire managers said. Near-record temperatures and gusty wind were forecast.

Elsewhere, a dozen homes were ordered evacuated Sunday in California’s Santa Barbara County as a wildfire spread across 1,000 acres, continuing a new growth spurt for the nearly month-old blaze that had appeared to be standing still.

Warm and extremely dry weather during the night allowed the fire to burn through old, heavy trees in the Los Padres National Forest on its uncontained southeast side, fire spokeswoman Juanita Freel said. The blaze had charred about 32,000 acres, or 50 square miles, since it started July 4 and was 70 percent contained Sunday.

An evacuation order was issued for the Peachtree Community, about 12 homes spread over a wide area of the forest. Smoke drifted over Santa Barbara more than 40 miles away and was reported in Bakersfield some 80 miles away, Freel said.

Officials said a 1,030-square-mile fire in southern Idaho and northern Nevada was 80 percent contained and could be contained Sunday.

“The rain really helped us the other day, which helped bring up that containment,” fire information officer Pam Bierce said Saturday. “There are still some hot spots we’re working on.”

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