Wildfire forces cruise lines to cancel Denali NP tours

   July 4, 2024 ,   Accidents

A cruise line has been compelled to cancel land tours in Alaska's Denali National Park & Preserve due to a wildfire near the park's entrance. The fire, known as the "Riley Fire," was reported on Sunday, June 30. Efforts to contain and extinguish the fire were ongoing as of July 1 at 7:30 p.m., according to updates from the park's website.

Park officials have stated that the Riley Fire continues to be active near the entrance to Denali NP, causing park officials to keep the park closed Tuesday, July 2nd. Smokejumpers and fire crews, with strong support from aerial resources, have made significant progress, particularly along the fire’s southern flank.

Access to the park has been restricted, with cars being turned away and public facilities, including the visitor’s center, trails, and campgrounds, temporarily closed. Shore excursions provided by cruise lines have also been affected, and train schedules transporting travelers from Anchorage and Fairbanks to Denali NP have been suspended.

The cruise port providing access to Anchorage and Fairbanks (destinations included in cruisetours) is Seward.

Princess Cruises notified a travel agent with booked accommodations in the area, stating that a fire at Denali National Park has impacted operations at the Denali Wilderness Lodge, due to a loss of power and essential resources. Consequently, they must cancel the land portion of the upcoming cruise tour.

The Riley Fire occurred during Denali's peak tourist season, resulting in thousands of visitors having to cancel or alter their plans. The Alaska Wildland Fire Information website estimates that ~350 acres have been burned. A team of 22 smokejumpers and the Tanana Chiefs Type 2 Initial Attack fire crew are working to establish a fire line, supported by firefighters and water-scooping planes. Additional crews are expected to join the ongoing efforts, with ~50 people collectively working to extinguish the blaze.

Vanessa Jusczak, Director of the Denali Chamber of Commerce, assured a local media outlet that no injuries have been reported.

Officials suspect the fire was human-caused, though further investigations are pending.