A bad wildfire year for the US and Canada just got that much worse. As of yesterday a fire had ignited in Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park. As of today, the fire had consumed nearly 3,000 acres and it’s still growing. In other words — Glacier National Park, a national monument, a natural wonder, a place known for its towering glacier-capped peaks and frozen valleys, is now on fire.
(A massive wildfire is now burning in Glacier National Park. Image source: Commons.)
Strong winds and low humidity combine to generate what fire management officials call — ‘explosive fire growth potential.’ These conditions allowed the fire to burn over 1,000 acres during just a few hours yesterday and to rapidly expand to cover nearly 3,000 acres today. The fire there has now spurred officials to order a complete evacuation of St. Mary’s Park and to suspend all activities until further notice. A 50 mile long road running through the park has also had 21 miles blocked off to traffic. Type 1 incident management teams are now en route to the blaze which is still growing.
The fire occurs as other blazes are now popping up throughout both Montana and Washington. East of Glacier National Park, the Cabin Gulf Fire also exploded to 1,000 acre size yesterday — drawing the firefighting efforts of 10 aircraft and dozens of hot shotters. In southeastern Washington, more than 600 firefighters battled a single blaze that had consumed more than six square miles including one residence. Across Washington other forest areas, including rain forests, were also experiencing a widespread fire outbreak.
(Plume from Glacier National Park Fire spreads over hundreds of miles in yesterday’s satellite shot. Image source: National Weather Service Great Falls.)
The glaciers of Glacier National Park have greatly retreated during recent years. Many once snow-capped peaks now show only the gray-brown of naked granite. This multi-decadal melt, driven by a 1 C warming of the global climate since the 1880s, has also set the stage for more fire vulnerability. A vulnerability that, this year, hit a new high extreme as powerful heatwaves invaded Montana as well as much of the Canadian and American west. Many regions are now experiencing record wildfires for June and July. Now Glacier National Park can be added to that grim tally.