Science

Wildfires Consume Glacier National Park for the Second Year in a Row

Glacier National Park has been seeing rising temperatures and drier conditions in recent years.
Glacier National Park has been seeing rising temperatures and drier conditions in recent years.
Jennifer DeMonte/Getty Images

This past Saturday was Glacier National Park’s hottest day ever on record. As temperatures reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, lightening ignited three fires in the area. The largest of the fires spread rapidly on Sunday with the help of dry winds. As of Tuesday morning, the fire’s size had reached an estimated 2,500 acres, destroying historic structures and prompting over 150 evacuations.

Around 60 people in total are fighting the fires. Local agencies have deployed firefighters, smokejumpers, helicopters, and “super scooper” airplanes to the effort. The vehicles, however, have struggled to get close to the flames due to high winds. Authorities also evacuated 87 campsites and 82 rooms at the Lake McDonald Lodge on Sunday. This is the second year in a row that a fire has spurred evacuations from the lake—the reason the area has to be evacuated is because the “super scooper” airplanes have been dropping water taken from the lake onto the fire.

More than a dozen public and private structures have also crumbled, and lodges that were built in the early 1900s are currently at risk of being engulfed by flames. Around 32 miles of the Going to the Sun Road at the foot of the lake have also been closed. The park has been tweeting updates for visitors:

Besides the record-breaking heat, Glacier National Park is also in the midst of a lengthy drought. Missoula, the closest city to the park, has not had any measurable rain for 41 days, and will beat the record set just last year if the drought extends past 46 days. In 2017, Montana’s drought period also coincided with a months-long battle with wildfires on the Western side of the state, making the fire season much more severe than usual. These dry spells and rising temperatures are both conditions that are expected to worsen due to anthropogenic climate change. They’ve also been causing the national park’s namesake glaciers to recede and disappear, another simultaneous blow to nature and tourism.