West entrance to Glacier National Park reopens after wildfire turns away from area

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) _ Glacier National Park's west entrance and the popular Apgar Village reopened to tourists Friday, and firefighters were confident they had steered a 40,000-acre wildfire away from the village.

Park officials said the road could open all the way to historic Lake McDonald Lodge by Saturday if the backfires being set Friday at the north end of the lake successfully reduce the wildfire threat.

Fire crews remained on guard because of gusty wind and tinder-dry conditions. The area was evacuated twice since late last month.

Dozens of other fires, most of them uncontrolled, burned in parts of Montana. The sheer number of fires blanketed large portions of the state with smoke and stretched firefighting resources.

``Everyone's screaming for more help,'' said Sam Wilbanks, information officer on a 7,700-acre fire in western Montana near Condon, where two dozen homes remained evacuated Friday. Residents of about 60 other homes were advised to consider evacuating.

Near Missoula, Mont., at least eight wildfires were burning, and residents in more than 900 rural houses were on notice they may have to evacuate. A 950-acre fire nine miles west of Missoula threatened 650 homes, but blustery wind Friday pushed the fire back into itself, officials said.

At Yellowstone National Park, the east entrance was closed for a second day Friday after a 3,200-acre fire jumped the road.

``They're not even letting the Park Service travel on it,'' said Gene Bryan, director of Wyoming's Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, who met with Park Service officials Thursday night. ``It's a safety issue now,'' he said, noting that burned trees lined the roadway.

About 4,000 park visitors use the east entrance each day in August. All of Yellowstone's services and major attractions were open, and the fire wasn't threatening any structures.