Last updated: 03:56 PM ET, Thu July 23 2015

Expanding Wildfire Forces Evacuations at Glacier National Park

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | July 23, 2015

Expanding Wildfire Forces Evacuations at Glacier National Park

Photo via Twitter

Parts of Montana's Glacier National Park, including nearly half of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, have been evacuated in response to a growing wildfire that has burned more than six square miles, the Associated Press reported.

The massive fire has even forced visiting tourists staying at hotels and campgrounds at nearby St. Mary Lake to flee the area. 

The extreme fire comes at a busy time for the park as the Associated Press reports, "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 and hugs the mountainsides to cross the Continental Divide."

In a statement released Wednesday, the National Park Service said, "the fire is moving quickly in dry, heavy timber with extreme spread potential."

The NPS also stated that suppression attempts were limited by "windy conditions," which are combining with drought and dry air to spread the fire.

Below you can see how intense and expansive the fire is courtesy of CBS News and the Los Angeles Times.

The NPS said that park officials escorted multiple backpackers away from the vicinity of the fire and will "continue to search for backcountry hikers in the area to evacuate them and direct them to safety."

The fire started on the east side of the one million-plus acre park Tuesday afternoon and began moving toward the northwest.

Officials shut down the St. Mary Visitor Center and evacuated the St. Mary Campground Wednesday afternoon in response to the growing threat. 

"We're kind of in the direct line right now," St. Mary Glacier Park KOA owner Susan Brooke told the AP. "It's raging down the ridge toward St. Mary." Brooke said that nearly all of the 688 people staying at the campground when the fire began on Tuesday had left by midafternoon Wednesday.

The fire has doubled in size over the past two days to 4,000 acres.

The NPS said on Wednesday that additional resources were arriving and pointed out that fire management priorities remain the "safety of public and fire-fighting personnel, protection of property and values at risk and containment of the fire." 

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