Lots of familiar faces and places, not to mention some impressive photography . . .
If, on a hot, dry day a fire should break out within a certain 300,000-acre patch of northwest Montana, in an expanse of backcountry between the crest of the Whitefish Range and the glacier-carved peaks that hug the Continental Divide, there’s a good chance Leif Haugen will be the first person on Earth to see it.
For the better part of an hour, he might be the only person.
Mr. Haugen has worked for more than half of his 52 years as a fire lookout, scanning the larch and pine wilderness from a one-room mountaintop cabin. Alone most of the time but for his thoughts, his mutt, Ollie, and the occasional crackle of voices on the radio, he is part of a nationwide band of professional watchers who, like lighthouse keepers, stand on solitary guard between civilization and nature’s uncaring whims.
More and more, he stands at another divide, too: between human jobs and automation. As land managers seek new tools to deal with the threat of catastrophic wildfires, which is rising in the West as the planet warms and Americans build more homes near overgrown forests and other vulnerable places, the days of lookouts might be numbered.
From the latest press release, here’s the status for fires throughout the Flathead National Forest, including links to supplemental material . . .
Kalispell, MT, August 3, 2023 — As hot and dry weather conditions continue, firefighters continue working to contain several fires on the Flathead National Forest. Area closures are now in place for public and firefighter safety associated with the Tin Soldier Complex, the Ridge Fire, and the Stadium Creek Fire. Fire danger is extreme, and Stage II Fire Restrictions will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, August 5th, 2023.
The Tin Soldier Complex (comprised of the Sullivan, Kah Mountain, and Bruce Fires) is currently estimated at 2,061 acres. Firefighting crews are engaging in point source protection of values at risk, setting up sprinklers and hose and enhancing fuel breaks with heavy equipment around private property and around the Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Fire personnel are conducting initial assessments and preparations for structure protection.
The Con Kelly Mountain Fire, previously included in the Tin Soldier Complex, is now successfully controlled and firefighters will be transported off-site by aircraft.
The Ridge Fire is now estimated at 633 acres. Due to the hot and dry weather conditions, the fire is actively burning on all sides in steep terrain with heavy dead and down fuels with smoke visible from Highway 2 and Hungry Horse, MT. Firefighting crews are working to establish fuel breaks along FS Road 38 and removing combustible materials around the Desert Mountain communication towers. Aerial resources are assisting firefighting efforts by reducing the fire spread.
The Glacier View Fire is human caused, estimated at 3.5 acres. Firefighters have completed containment line and are now working to reduce heat along the edge of the fire perimeter. The interior area of the fire is still producing smoke but poses no threat at this time.
The Doris Point Fire is estimated at 4 acres (growth of 3.5) based on aerial observation on August 3. The fire is burning on 80-90% slope in thick timber and vegetation with prevalent large-diameter dead trees and is not threatening any values at risk.
The Stadium Creek and Alcove Fires are in and just outside of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, respectively, and are not threatening any values at risk.
The East Fork Fire on the Kootenai National Forest is less than a mile from the boundary of the Flathead National Forest, Tally Lake Ranger District. It is currently estimated at 453 acres with very active fire behavior yesterday, including group torching and spotting in heavy timber and subalpine fir. Firefighting crews will continue to construct indirect line and shaded fuel breaks around the fire perimeter with aircraft working to slow fire behavior while equipment establishes an anchor on the fire.
Tin Soldier Complex ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-13: The closure area encompasses the southern portion of the Hungry Horse Reservoir from the Jewel Basin Hiking Area boundary west of the reservoir to the mountain ridgeline from Prospector Mountain along the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness boundaries to Inspiration Point in section 4 T23N R16W. The waters of Hungry Horse Reservoir within this boundary are included in the closure area.
All roads and trails within the closure are closed to the public, including two additional trails:
NFS Trail #7 (Alpine 7) from the junction with NFS Trail #10 (Six Mile Trail), south to the Junction with NFS Trail #31(Napa Point Trail).
Spotted Bear River Trail #2 from the Wilderness Boundary to its junction with NFS Trail #173 (Pentagon Creek).
NFS Trail #64 and NFS Road 895F are not part of the closure and remain open.
Ridge Fire ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-14: The closure area encompasses National Forest System (NFS) Road 497 and NFS Road 38 in section 3 T31N R19W, Emery Creek, the Coram Experimental Forest, Desert Mountain, and continues east to the Great Bear Wilderness boundary.
Stadium Creek ClosureOrder 01-10-04-23-15: The closed area encompasses Gorge Creek drainage within the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, including Feather, Inspiration, Gorge, Canyon Trickle, and Stadium Creeks.
All roads and trails within the closure are closed to the public. The closure includes:
Stage II Restrictions will go into effect at 12:01am Saturday, August 5th, 2023, across the Flathead National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Glacier National Park, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation – Northwestern Land Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1, and Lake County, Lincoln County, Flathead County, and Sanders County.
There are no new fires in the Swan Lake Ranger District. No new fire starts were reported today on the Flathead National Forest as of 2:00pm.
(Also, Glacier NP has a new one above Bowman Lake, estimated at 0.5 acres. I noticed the lightening strike yesterday evening, right across the river from our place.)
Kalispell, MT, July 31, 2023 — A dry lightning storm overnight between July 29 and July 30 caused an increase in fire starts on the Flathead National Forest. 17 fires have been reported since the lightning storm and firefighters are investigating smoke reports and conducting initial attack.
The largest new fires are the Kah Mountain and Bruce fires on the Spotted Bear Ranger District. These two are being combined with two smaller starts into the Tin Soldier Complex. Firefighting crews are responding with initial attack and a Type 3 Incident Management Team has been ordered to take command of the Tin Soldier Complex, estimated at 80-100 acres. Spotted Bear Ranger District has seven reported fires at this time. Alcove and Stadium Creek Fires are in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The 0.5-acre Elam Fire is along the West Side Road on the Hungry Horse Reservoir and firefighters have constructed containment lines around the perimeter.
The Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District has nine reported fires, one of which is in controlled and two are now contained, including the 0.10-acre fire near Lion Lake reported this morning July 31.
The Logan Fire is contained and is approximately 0.10 acre, located in timber with an active timber sale to the south. Aerial resources delivered buckets of water this morning, slowing the fire spread in support of the firefighters who successfully constructed containment line around the fire.
The Doris Point Fire is estimated at 0.5 acre and is burning on 80-90% slope in thick timber and vegetation with prevalent large-diameter dead trees. Fire personnel were able to approach the fire on Sunday but the risk to firefighter safety is very high due to the fire’s location. Fire personnel are working to evaluate opportunities and suppression plans that prioritize safety and probability of success.
The Ridge Fire is estimated at 20-30 acres, actively backing down towards Embry drainage in mature timber with high quantities of both dead and down trees and standing dead snags. This is a full suppression fire and fire personnel are assessing control features, utilizing old logging roads. Heavy equipment has been ordered to support firefighting efforts.
The Abbot Fire is a single tree snag burning less than half a mile from the Ridge fire and has been incorporated into the Ridge Fire response strategy.
The Emery Fire is estimated at 0.10 south of the ridge fire and is successfully controlled.
Currently, there are no fire-related area or road closures on the Flathead National Forest.
Kalispell, MT – December 16, 2022 – The Flathead National Forest is excited to announce the selection of Tami MacKenzie as Deputy Forest Supervisor.
Tami started her career on the Flathead National Forest as a wildland firefighter in 1998 while attending the University of Montana. She worked in wildland fire until 2006 when she accepted a position in environmental planning where she held various positions between the Flathead National Forest and the Regional Office for the next 14 years. In 2020, she became the Forest Public Affairs Officer and member of the Forest Leadership Team.
Flathead National Forest just put out a press release listing the prescribed burns planned for this fall. The only entry concerning the North Fork is…
Red Whale Fuels Reduction – Approximately 750 acres will be targeted for prescribed burning this fall in Moose creek and Moran creek. This project location is in the North Fork of the Flathead about four miles northwest of Polebridge. Depending on weather this burn is planned for mid to late September to early October. The purpose of this project is to help restore a more historical fire regime to the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous fuels to reduce wildfire risk and aid in potential future fire suppression efforts, and improve wildlife habitat.
According to Andy Huntsberger, our District Fire Management Officer, “…it is very unlikely that we will be doing any burning besides piles on Glacier View District this fall. The window for activity fuels and ecosystem burning will probably close after next week and our priorities will be in the Southfork. I’m not saying it won’t happen but I am saying it is very unlikely. “
Heads up! It is Forest Service special use permit time again. Some of you may recall the kerfuffle over this last year, particularly when it came to guided ATV tours. There are a few more requests this year. There is a May 12 deadline for responses.
Flathead National Forest announced their prescribed burn schedule today. Here are the items in the North Fork…
Red Whale RX— A 750-acre project is planned in the Red Whale Creek Drainage in the North Fork region about 4 miles northwest of Polebridge. Depending on weather, this burn is planned for mid to late September to early October. The purpose of this project is to help restore a more historical fire regime to the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce hazardous fuels to reduce wildfire risk and aid in potential future wildfire efforts.
North Fork Road – Five acres of hand piles near the Big Creek work center.