Helicopter fills basket with water to douse Seeley Lake fire near the Tamaracks.
From left: Will and Dave Anderson
with Jake and Julie Webster
August 17, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Story by Donna Love
Photos by Angie Kimmell
While visiting Seeley Lake on Friday, August 11, Will Anderson and his twelve year son, from Iron River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, saw a bolt of lightning strike a tree above the northeastern shoreline of the lake and watched as flames shot skyward. A twenty person Type Two ground crew from the Ottawa National Forest, also in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and very near Iron River, fought the blaze. Here's how the story unfolded.
Will and Dave were visiting their cousins, Julie Webster and her eight year old, residents of Lincoln, Montana. Julie said she brought them "to see Seeley Lake because it is real pretty over here." Will said Seeley Lake reminded him of Michigan. The family was standing on the north beach of Seeley Lake Campground at about five thirty p.m. watching a thunder and lightning storm roll through. They saw the lightning strike and when they saw the fire they "got real nervous because of everything that has been going on with the fires."
They had a cell phone with them, but didn't know whom to call. They pointed the fire out to two gentlemen walking by who knew to call 911 to report a fire. The men also knew the area so they made the call to give directions to the fire. Julie said she wishes she knew who they were so she could thank them.
Six firefighters were immediately dispatched from the Seeley Lake Ranger Station where a crew of eleven initial attack firefighters are always on alert. Engines from the Seeley Lake Rural Fire Department also responded to the call. The fire was only about two miles north and east of Seeley Lake.
A helicopter was ordered for water drops to suppress the fire. A medium-sized 212 ship was diverted off the Monture/Spread Ridge Complex Fires north of Ovando about fifteen air miles away. The helicopter quickly began dipping water from the lake in front of the Tamaracks Resort. The turn-around time was only a couple of minutes so resort owners, Jeff and Sue Heagy anxiously awaited news that the fire had been put out while guests began packing luggage, "just in case" and Sue's daughter, Angie Kimmell snapped pictures of the helicopter.
After the water drops, the initial attack team from Seeley Lake left the fire when a twenty person Type Two ground crew, also from the Monture/Spread Ridge Complex Fires, spent the night fighting the fire. The Type Two crew just happened to be from the Ottawa National Forest, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan very near Iron River.
Tim Love, District Ranger of the Seeley Lake Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest, said, "It could have been a nasty fire with the potential to threaten the community of Seeley Lake."
Thanks to the quick thinking of Michigan residents and their firefighters, the fire was found, quickly contained at about an acre, and effectively put out. Thanks Michigan!