It’s summertime in Western Montana, and with that comes outdoor fun, sunshine, camping, and…the possibility of wildland fires. Currently, there are a number of active fires in Western Montana, across Montana and in surrounding states. In addition to wildland fires, some areas have smoke to contend with and in those areas the air quality is not great.
To help our partners communicate accurate and relevant information, we're sharing our wildland communication strategy and resources.
Our wildland fire and smoke communications/messaging plan is broken into three categories: preventive, during and recovery. The focus of this is how we respond to the impact it has on our visitors. We have created strategy and efforts for each, and tools for you to use:
1. Share with industry partners resources available so they are aware before an emergency occurs.
2. Share with consumers how they can have a safe and fun trip around Western Montana.
3. Remind them there are things they can do to prevent a wildland fire and that fires will likely not impact their trip if they are diligent in following the rules.
Direct consumers toward available partner resources for information. We don’t want to have a "Western Montana is closed" message. We will provide relevant content and resources through communication with DMO partner-owned channels including information on open areas and activity options for visitors to enjoy.
Promote communities impacted by fires, communicating that they are open for business, and share current photos to promote visitation. Industry communications outreach will point partners to this page where businesses can access our fire/smoke toolkit—giving our partners access to the resources and information they need to share with visitors and locals. We will share the toolkit in all partner newsletters, on partner webpages and via a digital campaign aimed at preparing our communities BEFORE a fire/smoke event occurs.
Glacier Country Tourism and our partners have drafted language over the past several years to help avoid cancellations of future reservations and to help visitors enjoy their visit if a wildland fire causes temporary closures or smoke conditions in the Glacier Country region. Prior to any potential crisis, it is always good to review protocols should a fire begin to impact our visitors. (Download as a PDF)
Here are a few things to keep in mind when talking with people.
Provide specific information, for example…
“The majority of Glacier National Park is open. Open areas include Apgar, Fish Creek, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and the North Fork.”
Give perspective on what is open:
“Glacier National Park is over a million acres.” Use percentages like “2,500 acres—or less than 3% of Glacier National Park—are currently burning, while approximately 25% of the park is temporary closed for wildland fire management.”
“29.5 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are currently closed between the foot of Lake McDonald (near Apgar) and Logan Pass.”
“18.5 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open from St. Mary to Logan Pass on the east side.”
Historically, many wildland fires have been human-caused, so reminders for guests to practice fire safety are important. Even more so in the time of a pandemic. While recreating, people are encouraged to:
Montana Office of Tourism Toolkit
The Montana Office of Tourism has developed a toolkit of resources to help educate residents and visitors on safe travel best practices when it comes to wildland fires and safety. Materials are included for both preventative education as well as materials that can be updated with specific information on local conditions. There are also templates for crisis communications. The toolkit contains print and digital templates that may be customized to reflect a website for your organization, community, or business.
Access the full toolkit here.
Here are some links that will help you stay informed in case there are wildland fires and smoke in Western Montana and help your visitors make informed travel decisions. Check back often, as these sites are updated daily, sometimes hourly.
Glacier National Park – @GlacierNPS and facebook.com/GlacierNPS.
Glacier National Park Dashboard – nps.gov/applications/glac/dashboard
We also have many webcams set up across Western Montana so we can see Glacier Country in real time and if there's smoke in the area.
Here are a few:
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 your visitors must revise their travel plans in Western Montana because of wildland fires or smoke, Glacier Country Tourism’s call center can help. Chat online here or call 800.338.5072.
Glacier Country Tourism provides a marketing voice much louder than what we could do on our own. Their audience exposure and traffic are at a scale we’d be silly not to take advantage of.