AUGUST 9, 2019: Western Montana Wildland Fire and Smoke Update
Our daily rain dance apparently worked, and we’re experiencing cooler weather and rain in parts of Western Montana. But we do have a bit of activity that we’d like to mention.
There is a growing fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area which is throwing a wrench into the plans of folks who were planning on rafting on the South Fork of the Flathead River. Hiking and river traffic in the area was shut down on Wednesday.
The Beeskove Fire, northeast of Missoula, remains small but persistent, due in part to the rocky and remote terrain on which it’s burning. Because of the fire and the firefighting efforts, a number of trails are closed in the Rattlesnake Wilderness. Luckily for us, the Rattlesnake Wilderness is huge, and just as many trails remain open.
We’re experiencing a bit of smoke, but it’s mostly aesthetic, and the health department so far has not issued any warnings about air quality. And, because we like to look on the bright side, the sunsets are incredible because of it.
AUGUST 2, 2019: Western Montana Wildland Fire and Smoke Update
You may be hearing about an uptick in wildland fire activity in Western Montana. We’ve got a couple. There’s a small but wily fire just north of Missoula called the Beeskove Fire, and every time there’s a lightning storm we experience a rash of activity including some smoke from surrounding areas like Idaho, Washington and Canada. Conditions are hot and dry, so we’ve got potential.
Most fires in our area take place in the backcountry and are usually sparked by lightning. They’re a natural part of our ecosystem. One of the results of wildland fires, whether in Montana or one of the surrounding states, is that the air can become smoky. And, occasionally plans have to be altered because of a road closure. We’re here to help in case either of these situations impact your trip to Western Montana’s Glacier Country.
Check out some of the resources below. They’ll let you know if there are any fires in the area, where the fires are (or, more importantly, where they aren’t), where the smoke is and if your visit to Western Montana will be impacted by either. Chances are, it won’t be, but if it is, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You’re safe. Most wildland fires, when they happen, are in the back country, miles from civilization and any structures. Montana is home to 3,443,038 acres of wilderness, and most fires happen there. If, by chance, a wildland fire gets close to a community, our firefighting experts communicate, evacuate and communicate some more. You will not find yourself unwittingly in the midst of a wildfire while driving down the highway. Ever. Public safety is always the first concern. If an area is open, it is safe.
- Montana is huge. Vast, in fact. Over 145,556 square miles or 94,109,440 acres, to be precise. If you read that a fire is 6,400 acres, keep it in perspective, as that’s only a tiny, tiny fraction of Montana’s total acreage. Sometimes newspaper headlines or social media posts can be unnecessarily dramatic and imply that Montana as a whole is “on fire.” It sounds better than to say .000068 of Montana is on fire, which is actually more accurate.
- Fire is a natural part of our region’s ecology. Most fires are started by lightning, and are responsible for maintaining the health and perpetuity of certain fire-dependent ecosystems. We don’t pretend to be scientists, but we do have a lot of scientists in our area and resources in our partners at the state and federal levels, and we’ve attached a link to fire ecology below.
- And, because we always think the glass is at least half full here in Glacier Country, when the sky is a bit smoky, the sunsets are truly phenomenal. And, morel mushrooms, which are comparable to the delicious caviar of the mushroom family, like to grow in post-fire areas. We like that.
Here are some links that will help you stay informed in case there are wildland fires in Western Montana and help you make informed travel decisions. Check back often, as these sites are updated daily.
- Montana.gov official state website on Fire Information For Travelers: travelaware.mt.gov
- Montana Department of Environmental Quality wildfire smoke information site: http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/
- Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation interactive wildland fire map: http://gis.dnrc.mt.gov/apps/firemap/
- Frequent updates on fires/closures: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/accessible-view/
- Posting of fishing, camping and other recreation restrictions due to drought and fire: http://fwp.mt.gov/news
- Air quality: http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair
Glacier National Park – @GlacierNPS and https://www.facebook.com/GlacierNPS.
Glacier National Park Dashboard – https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/dashboard/
We are also lucky to have many webcams set up across Western Montana so we can see the beauty of Glacier Country at any time. You can also see if there’s smoke in the area.
Here are a few so you can see what is happening right now in our area:
- Montana Department of Transportation
- Glacier National Park
- Bitterroot Valley
- Monture Mountain (Near Ovando)
- Woods Bay in Bigfork (Flathead Lake)
- Whitefish Mountain Resort
And, although I think we’d all agree we’d rather not have to deal with smoke, it’s not calamitous, and if one area is smoky, there are always many, many places in Western Montana, and the state in general, that aren’t. If there does happen to be some smoke in the air, we have lots of indoor activities to keep visitors entertained. Museums? Breweries? Arts? Great dining options? We’ve got it all.
Things to Do in Glacier Country
- Explore Whitefish
- Visit Missoula
- Discover Kalispell
- Other Communities in Western Montana
- 102 Things to Do in Western Montana
- Things to Do in Glacier National Park
- Things to Do Around Glacier National Park
If you ever have to revise your travel plans in Western Montana because of wildland fires or smoke, Glacier Country Tourism’s call center can help you. Chat online here or call 800.338.5072.