HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A fast-moving wildfire in Glacier National Park torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their rides on the Montana park’s most popular roadway, while officials evacuated a hotel and campgrounds during prime tourist season.
Visitors left their vehicles along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and were shuttled out by officials Tuesday, park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. The two-lane road that carries thousands of vehicles daily during peak days in July and August was shut down for 21 of its 50 miles.
Park officials were helping tourists retrieve their cars Wednesday, while rangers searched the backcountry for any remaining hikers after the blaze doubled in size overnight to more than 3 square miles.
Wind gusts and low humidity were expected to move through drought-parched northwestern Montana, increasing the risk of the fire spreading even more quickly, and park officials were preparing for more evacuations.
“These conditions may create explosive fire growth potential,” Germann said in a statement.
That dangerous fire weather extended to Washington state, which is also struggling with drought. About 600 firefighters on the ground and in the air attacked a wildfire that has burned one home and nearly 6 square miles in the southeastern part of the state. It was likely human-caused, officials said.
In Glacier National Park, officials evacuated the 72-room Rising Sun Motor Inn and a nearby campground with 84 spots. They also evacuated the 148-site St. Mary campground, one of the largest in the park.
The inn was completely booked and the campgrounds full when the fire broke out Tuesday, according to the park and Glacier National Park Lodges’ websites.
Peak tourist season is underway, and 95 percent of park visitors travel some length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park hugs the mountainsides to cross the Continental Divide.
The National Weather Service warned that wind gusts combined with low humidity in the park and the rest of northwestern Montana create extreme conditions for wildfires Wednesday afternoon.
Helena National Forest officials say a separate blaze in central Montana has burned about 4 square miles since Tuesday and threatens homes in a rural area about 15 miles east of Townsend. A portion of U.S. Highway 12 has been closed, along with two campgrounds and a day-use area.
Fire officials don’t yet know what caused either Montana fire.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.