On July 29th, the first in a series of thunderstorms rolled into the Glacier View Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest. Multiple fires started on the district as a result of these and the thunderstorms that followed through the rest of the week.
In all, 12 fires resulted from lightning strikes. These fires ranged in size from 0.1 acres to 8 acres. Due to the close proximity of these fires, the fires were managed as a fire complex.
A fire complex is formed when more than one fire is burning within the same geographic area and is managed using the same resources. All of the fires were burning in heavy timber, in steep, rough terrain not easily accessible that created problems for both firefighter safety and firefighting operations.
The fire behavior began as single and group tree torching with occasional spotting and is presently smoldering and smoking in stump holes and any duff that is present. The total acreage of the fire complex is 23 acres, with approximately 50% contained.
Multiple interagency resources were assigned to the fire including 3 Interagency Hotshot crews (Bitterroot IHC, Flathead IHC & Lolo IHC), 2 twenty-person hand crews (Flathead, based out of Flathead National Forest & Great Northern based out of Condon), 4 helicopters, 1 helitack crew from Helena, 1 Type 6 engine from Coronado National Forest in AZ, and a local Type 3 interagency management team pulled together from many different cooperating local, state and federal agencies. (The Type 3 IMTs are a relatively new concept and will be in operation more as the fire season progresses.) At the height of operations, there was a total of approximately 145 people. A helibase was set up at Moran Meadows to provide closer access for the helicopters to shuttle cargo and personnel to the fire locations. These resources were shared across all the fires in this area. Additionally, the Flathead National Forest initially deployed 1 Type 6 engine for suppression attack when the first fires were detected. The ability to pull all of these resources from the different agencies and the availability of these resources allowed us to suppress these remote fires quickly and efficiently keeping the total acreage burned to only 23 acres. There were no area or trail closures during this time as all of the fires were in remote locations.
The remoteness of these fires kept the Hay Creek Complex from interfering with any regular forest operations and public recreational opportunities. Had these fires occurred closer to the end of the season, they possible could have been used as resource benefit fires. Resource benefit fires are used to manage forest fuels and vegetation to maintain and enhance the overall health of the forest.
This release was sent out by Karen Sargeant, Information Officer for Hay Creek Complex Fire.