Are Montana fires preventing people from coming to the state? - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Are Montana fires preventing people from coming to the state?

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WHITEFISH -

Between just the Sapphire Complex fire and the Sunrise fire thousands of acres are burning across the state.  Back in 2015 when the Reynolds Creek fire burned over 4,000 acres in Glacier National Park the Flathead Valley saw a 20% decrease in tourism.  Lisa Jones with the city of Whitefish tells us this decrease in 2015 severely impacted Whitefish.

Jones says, “We had about a twenty percent loss of visitation in August of 2015.  And that comes from the statistics from the state.  And so that did affect us certainly because this is the time when our small businesses in Montana are making hay.”

Jones wants to remind people that over half of the 70 wildfires since June have been human caused and as most of Montana moves into the stage 2 fire restrictions she wants to remind people to stay designated roads therefore avoiding deep dry grass.

But are the fires having the same effect on tourism this year?  We went to downtown Whitefish to find out.  We spoke with Terry Luge a Massachusetts resident.  He tells us he and his wife had been planning this Whitefish trip since February and nothing was going to stop them from coming to Montana.

Luge explains, “No it doesn't bother me it doesn't affect us where we go. We've been to other places where there have been natural things going on.  It's just a way of life.”

Looking statewide we spoke with Norma Nickerson who is the Director of Montana Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.  She tells us tourism statewide isn’t suffering at all from fires.  She tells us usually people book their vacations ahead of time and carry out those plans regardless. 

If you are interested in getting information on current air quality visit the Flathead Health Department Air Quality.

To keep updated on 2017 fire season and evacuation notices visit the Interagency Fire Fact Sheet.

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