As many of you are aware, Glacier Country has recently been experiencing late summer thunder and lightning storms. With those, depending on the conditions and dryness of the terrain, tends to come wildland fire. So far, this summer has been relatively quiet as far as fires go, and thankfully so, considering the global circumstances. But, in anticipation of the possibility that we do indeed have wildland fires or smoke to contend with, we’re being proactive with our communication. And, like with everything we do, we’re making sure we’re keeping COVID-19 safety protocols top of mind through the statewide campaign, Montana Aware.
We’ve been reviewing and updating our wildland fire and smoke communications/messaging plan, which is broken into three categories: preventive, during and recovery. The focus of this is how we respond to the impacts 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 do not 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 constituents. 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 communications partners have drafted language over the past several wildland fire seasons 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:
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 has been a valuable partner to the community-based work of our rural economic development organization. Their support and technical assistance has contributed to the success of Thompson Falls Main Street as a statewide model of planning and tourism infrastructure projects.