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Fires Or Not, Tourists Flock To Yellowstone With PM-Forest Fires Rdp

July 27, 1988

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) _ Wildfires or not, Roehr Guenter said he couldn’t change his plans to see Yellowstone National Park.

The West German and his family were among the thousands of tourists who continued flocking to the world-famous park this week despite fires burning thousands of acres of forest and meadow.

Even as smoke from the 6,000-acre North Fork fire billowed behind the Guenters while they waited for Old Faithful to erupt, they expressed enthusiasm about the 2.2 million-acre park and the elk and bison they have seen.

The fires appeared to have little effect on the number of people entering the park. Last weekend, 41,346 cars entered the park, comparable to 42,327 cars the previous weekend.

Like many tourists, the Guenters changed their plans slightly when they found the South Entrance to the park closed Sunday because of fires burning in the Grant Village area.

They drove their rental car back to Jackson, Wyo., then into Idaho and through the park’s West Entrance at West Yellowstone, Mont.

The closing of the South Entrance has been a boon to the tourism business in eastern Idaho and western Montana.

Ron Gray, resort manager at Mack’s Inn at Island Park, Idaho, has been ″turning people away at the door. It’s unfortunate that the fire is burning, but we’ve been full up.

″We’ve been renting rooms we usually would not rent, but people say, ’We’ll take anything,‴ Gray said.

All accommodations in the park, campsites and hotel rooms, are full, and space is scarce in West Yellowstone, said Steve Iobst, a park spokesman. The fires have closed campgrounds in the Grant Village and Lewis Lake areas.

Motels and campgrounds in West Yellowstone have been having a record year, and the closure of Grant Village in the park when fire threatened it filled any vacancies there might have been.

″We’ve been solid booked for a week,″ said Becky Gillory of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

Bob McPherson of Seattle said the fires seemed to add ″a little confusion″ to the traffic, but found the blazes ″kind of dramatic, really.″ He said he would not change his plans to spend the last three days of his 30- day vacation in Yellowstone.

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