Recently, Western Montana has been experiencing wildland fires, or fires that take place mostly in the backcountry and are usually sparked by lightning. They’re a natural part of our ecosystem. One of the results of these fires 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 Montana’s Glacier Country.
It’s unfortunate—we agree. We’d rather it weren’t smoky either. But it’s not calamitous, and there are many, many places in Western Montana, and the state in general, that are smoke-free. And 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
- Visit the Bitterroot Valley
- Explore Libby
- 102 Things to Do in Western Montana
- Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Secondly, check out some of the resources below. They’ll let you know 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 of the fires are in the backcountry, miles from civilization and any structures. Montana is home to 3,443,038 acres of wilderness, and most of the fires are there. If, by chance, a fire gets close to a community, our firefighting experts communicate, evacuate if necessary, 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 plan your trip, and help you make informed travel decisions. Check back often, as these sites are updated daily.
- Montana.gov official state website on Montana Fire Conditions: http://mt.gov/fire.aspx
- 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/
- Montana Incident Information System up-to-date list of fires, status, acres burned: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/27/
- Montana Incident Information System up-to-date map of fires: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/maps/27/
- National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management “Fire Ecology”: https://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/learning-center/fire-in-depth/ecology.cfm
We are lucky to have many webcams set up across Western Montana so we can see the beauty of Glacier Country at any time. Here are a few so you can see what is happening right now in our area:
- Glacier National Park
- Bitterroot Valley
- Woods Bay in Bigfork
- Lolo Pass
- Lost Trail Pass
- Missoula, Whitefish and the Flathead Valley
If your travel plans have been affected by the current closures in Western Montana, Glacier Country Tourism’s call center can help you revise your travel plans. Chat online here or call 800.338.5072.