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Ovando fires under control


August 12, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana


On Sunday evening, August 8, firefighters achieved control of fires burning in the Yourname-Deer Gulch area approximately 13 air miles south of Highway 200 near Ovando. Lightning storms on the night of August 1 ignited the blazes along a north-facing ridge east of Elevation Mountain on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Initial-attack crews from the Clearwater State Forest were first to reach the fires, which eventually involved about 300 firefighters from around the region.

Incident commander Greg Morris of the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) said the dispersed fires were safely contained at a combined total of 77 acres burned. The steep terrain and heavy timber made the work difficult and potentially dangerous for the crews, who came from Browning, Lame Deer, Missoula, Rocky Boy, Ronan, and eastern Oregon. Supporting the hand crews were a number of fire engines from the area, including the Seeley Lake RFD, several water trucks, and a helicopter.

BLM resource advisor Larry Newman said the fires are within an area being studied as possible wilderness, and to avoid major disturbance, the command team chose hand-tool firefighting methods. Following control and mop-up operations, firefighters dug erosion barriers in the firelines to protect the soil and speed up regrowth of forest vegetation.

The fire camp was located at Clearwater State Forest headquarters, where a DNRC mobile-kitchen crew from Missoula provided hot meals. Despite the long, hard days on the firelines, crew morale in camp appeared to run high.

DNRC(Clearwater Unit manager Steve Wallace estimated the total cost of the Yourname-Deer Gulch operations would reach $650,000. With fire danger still very high, he stressed the need for all citizens to prevent human-caused fires, and to promptly report any open burning and all wildfires by calling 9-1-1(see related story).

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