WORLD Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

WORLD

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

AP

13:01, August 20, 2018

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing more evacuations and has burned within a half-mile of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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The Howe Ridge Fire from across Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park, Mont. The wildfire in northwest Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing evacuations and has burned within a mile of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road on Aug. 12, 2018. The Missoulian reported Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 that the Howe Ridge fire had grown to more than 12 square miles, and shifting winds are forecast over the next day and a half. (File photos: National Park Service)

Protecting the highway through the park is officials’ priority, with firefighters installing hoses and sprinklers to prevent it from spreading there, The Missoulian newspaper reported Sunday.

If that happens, destabilization could lead rock and trees to fall for years, operations chief Rocky Gilbert said.

Part of the 50-mile, two-lane road is closed. The road spans the width of the park and crosses the Continental Divide, according to the Visit Montana website.

Officials evacuated the Fish Creek Campground and told residents in the small town of Apgar on Lake McDonald that they might have to leave.

Other campgrounds, the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and private cabins along Going-to-the-Sun Road are already under evacuation orders.

Brothers Craig and Sean Simpson, and their father, Henry, were evacuated from their campground Sunday, the Missoulian reported.

“It’s kind of scary, being woken up and told you have to evacuate,” Craig Simpson told the newspaper.

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Park Ranger Mercedes O’Grady works a checkpoint at the intersection of Apgar Loop and Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Mont on Aug. 13, 2018. The wildfire in northwest Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing evacuations and has burned within a mile of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road. The Missoulian reported Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 that the Howe Ridge fire had grown to more than 12 square miles, and shifting winds are forecast over the next day and a half. 

Sean Simpson commended Glacier staff for their handling of the situation. “They got us out with plenty of time to be safe, and we felt taken care of.”

The Simpsons had arrived from New England on Saturday. While they had to relocate to Apgar Campground and cancel their plans to hike in the North Fork, they still planned to stay for five nights.

Businesspeople who serve tourists in the park said the fire has already hurt them.

“The smoke is what’s affecting us,” Glacier Outfitters co-owner Shelby Handlin Hampton told the Missoulian. The fire deterred Glacier visitors from the outdoor activities that her shop supports.

The fire in Glacier National Park comes as officials said a wildfire near California’s Yosemite National Park has been fully contained following a recent weekslong closure.

Yosemite’s closure came at the height of tourist season, costing the park and nearby communities millions of dollars. The park draws more than 600,000 visitors during a typical August, according to the National Park Service.

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