MISSOULA, Mont. - It was an eerie sight in Apgar Village Wednesday, after an evacuation warning was issued for parts of Glacier National Park due to concerns about the effects of a coming weather change on fires there.
The warning was issued for the Apgar Campground and Apgar Village portions of West Glacier including West Glacier Village.
It comes after a record-breaking number of visitors came through Glacier National Park.
"We're just waiting to see what happens here tonight," said Harold Griffiths, who has been a campground host in the park for 10 years.
This time last year the Apgar Campground was at capacity with 200 spots filled. Griffiths says now there are fewer than 20 campers.
"It's pretty much just us campground hosts left," he said. "In 10 years up here this is the first time we've had any evacuations. Two years ago we had a lot of smoke and fire and fire warnings. This is the first time I've ever seen us actually evacuate campgrounds."
The evacuation warning, paired with the hazardous air quality, forced many of the concessioners to close early for the season.
"Last year it was really sunny, and it was beautiful, and I did as much as I could. This time it's totally deserted. You can't see very far. You can smell the smoke. It feels like a ghost place, really," said Meryl Brooks, who is visiting from England.
A Red Flag Warning in the forecast has everyone wishing for the same thing -- a little relief for the drought-stricken state.
"Hopefully it's going to rain tomorrow," said Brooks.
Flathead County sheriff's deputies and park rangers notified residents on Wednesday to prepare for evacuation.
The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for southwest Montana Wednesday afternoon and evening, cautioning residents about stronger winds and low humidity ahead of a storm front that is forecast to bring rain across much of the state.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality also issued an air quality alert for the whole state Wednesday due to the concentration of wildfire smoke.
The following press release was sent by the Flathead Office of Emergency Services:
This is an evacuation warning from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department. With the forecasted weather change tonight, and its potential effects on fire behavior, the Flathead County Sheriff, Glacier National Park officials and the Thompson Fire Incident Management Team are issuing an evacuation warning for the following areas:
Apgar area within Glacier National Park, including Apgar campground and Apgar village.
Portions of West Glacier including West Glacier village, Highline Blvd. neighborhood, Golf Course neighborhood, Wild River Dr. / Grouse Ridge Rd. neighborhood, and west toward Sloan Lane neighborhood.
Sheriff Deputies and Park Rangers began going door to door issuing notices to all residents today (Wednesday September 13, 2017) at noon.
Residents and visitors are advised to prepare for evacuation.
For questions regarding evacuation WARNING inside Glacier National Park please contact 406-387-9092. For areas outside of the Glacier National Park please contact 406-758-2111.
This is an Evacuation WARNING.