Economic impact of Glacier NP fire worries business owners

Posted at 7:40 AM, Aug 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-17 09:40:44-04

KALISPELL – The 3,500 acre Howe Ridge fire burning on the west side of Glacier National Park is already hitting the bottom line for some local business.

This marks the second year in a row that businesses are taking a hit due to wildfire activity — right at the peak of tourism season in the Flathead Valley.

"Ever since the fire started in the Park we have had an increase of cancellations, and [as a] matter of fact overnight we had at least 30 cancellations," Super 8 by Wyndham Kalispell Glacier National Park general manager Dan Moderie told MTN News.

Rooms that are typically booked solid are now available and Moderie says that means rates at the motel will drop next week.

"It’s going to change rates. We’re going to have to work a little harder to make our money, but I think the biggest thing is going to hurt us is air quality," Moderie said. "Last year they canceled the Dragon Boat races on Flathead Lake because of air quality."

Concern is growing that over $2 million in economic revenue to the Flathead Valley could be lost again this year. After all, 65% of revenue is typically allied up in July, August and September.

"There’s over 60-teams and 20 people on each team that come and when you start canceling that many room nights — that’s in September — it hurt us last September," Moderie said.

With rooms available this weekend, the motel is set to welcome a group of tourists evacuated from Lake McDonald Lodge.

Meanwhile, Glacier National Park officials monitoring fire activity to prioritize reopening Going-to-the-Sun Road which drives visitation.

"Getting Going-to-the-Sun Road open is always one of the top priorities after safety," Fire Information Officer Diane Sine said. "And so certainly that is going to be assessed constantly. And we’ll see what we can do, but we certainly always want to have that road open."

A decision on the Dragon Boat Races is expected to be made in early September but could come sooner if the air-quality worsens in the Flathead Valley.

RELATED: Tourism industry leaders reassure visitors about GNP fires