September 7, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Donna Love
With fires raging across Montana this summer, the Seeley Lake Ranger Station has been able to hire up to fifty local people from Helmville, Clearwater/Greenough and Seeley Lake to help with fire suppression. The list of duties these locals perform is long and greatly appreciated.
At the Monture/Spread Ridge Fire Camp, locals provide services in the areas of equipment, planning,. communications, logistics, food services, transportation and other services. One outfitter was hired to provide showers for the fire crews.
Sixteen locals from Seeley Lake were hired to man forest road closure gates and another nine with equipment were hired to help with initial attack. Stationed at the Ranger Station, the equipment makes the Forest Service compound look more like a construction site than a land management office. Excavators, cats, and skidgines park where trail crews once worked.
At the office every day since the onslaught of fires started in July, some locals saw action and others didn't, but all were necessary. Tim Love, District Ranger for the Seeley Lake Ranger Station, feels that hiring locals is good. "They provide necessary support and we (the Forest Service) can provide local employment opportunity."
Bill Bartlett of Seeley Lake Trucking, said, "I'm really glad to see that they are hiring local people. I appreciated getting the work." He was hired as a water tender using a log truck that was converted into a water truck. At first, sitting around waiting was hard he said, but now the Forest Service has him watering roads at gate closures to keep the dust down for the gate keepers. He waters the roads for half the day and his brother-in-law drives the truck for the other half.
Martin Cahoon and his skidgine have been assigned to the Seeley Lake District for eighteen days. A skidgine is a log skidder with a water tank attached. It can push trees down and scarify the ground for making a fire line and carries water for wetting the line. His son, Leelyn, is working on the Darby and Sula area fires with a self-loading log truck and has another log truck being used as a water tender on the Eureka fires, driven by Curtis Gehrke.
Others hired locally include Tiger Hulett, a logger on standby with a dozer, John and Ed Jungers from J & E Contracting of Seeley Lake, on standby with a lowboy and excavator, Bill Stevenson, a log truck driver on standby as a water tender, Mike Dunlap, a log truck driver on standby with a water truck, and Gerald Linton on standby with a tilt bed trailer and skidder.
Along with these, a three person professional prescribed and wildfire specialists team with Wildlands Fire Management Services from Fort Benton are on standby with their fire engine and pumper truck.
Bartlett appreciated working for the Forest Service, but said he hoped the 2000 fire season would end real soon, and added, "I'm grateful, but we need to get back to the woods real bad."