Lightning-caused Fawn Creek Fire settling down somewhat


August 30, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana


Last Friday's lightning caused several fires, one of which did not flare up until Saturday afternoon. The winds, dry conditions and heavy ground fuel rapidly took the Lower Fawn Creek fire to 120 acres. The fire as of Tuesday evening was at 185 acres

The fire was a possible threat to the seven homes in the Crescent Meadows subdivision off the north end of Boy Scout Road as well as logging equipment in the area.

The Sheriff's Office notified the homeowners in that subdivision as well as homeowners on Boy Scout Road up to the Seeley Lake Campground that evacuation may be necessary if the fire advanced to the trigger points designated by emergency personnel.

The logging equipment was moved out of the area Saturday with the exception of one dozer that was put to work lining the fire. Additional dozers were called in immediately to help with the line.

The subdivision residents were put on voluntary evacuation Saturday, and they remain so at this time. One house in the Cresent Meadows subdivision with heavy timber behind it was wrapped with fire foil to protect it if the fire advanced. The Fire Department plans to take the wrap off Wednesday morning.

According to Seeley Lake Firefighter Jim White, the trigger point for mandatory evacuation for the Crescent Meadow residents would be when the fire crossed the lower Marshall Creek Road. If the fire crosses the West Bypass Road, mandatory evacuation would be in effect for the Crescent Meadow residents and north Boyscout residents.

Clearwater DNRC's initial attack crew, Seeley Volunteer firefighters and firefighters from the Seeley Lake Ranger District started fighting the fire Saturday afternoon.

"I am impressed that with the fire's momentum and the few resources and firefighters that we had we kept it at 120 acres," Clearwater DNRC Unit Fire Manager Colin Moon said.

DNRC turned the fire over to a Type II team at 6 p.m. on Sunday to free up the initial attack crews in case new fires started. The Type II team is headed by Chris Hoff. Three twenty-person crews along with engines, one helicopter and dozers are working the fire. As of Tuesday evening, the fire was 50% contained.

At the public meeting held Monday evening approximately 60 residents listened to key speakers about the fire and projections of its future. Hoff said that they were pretty confident about the fire, and if they could hold it through the dry front expected Wednesday evening or Thursday morning they should be in pretty good shape.

"We're going to be here for a while cleaning up the logging slash," he said. Slash contributed to the spread of the fire. Plum Creek is logging in that area.

According to Moon, Plum Creek is in compliance as far as the logging operation in that area and the slash is a normal part of a logging. There was no negligence on the part of the logging operation. He said that Plum Creek is not in the mitigating fire hazard stage. Plum Creek's operation in this area is in accordance with the state law.

By Saturday, Aug. 18, Clearwater DNRC was working 5 fires. Two fires are still being worked: Lower Fawn Creek and the North Fork Placid Creek Fire. The NF Placid fire is in mop-up stage.

About 7 air-miles northwest of the Fawn Creek Fire, another fire has claimed 30 acres on the Sunset Peak Fire. Hoff will also take this fire over on Wednesday morning.

The fire is burning in heavy timber and downed fuel. It is burning toward the Mission Mountain Wilderness.

At the 6 p.m. briefing Tuesday, it was reported there was no spotting on the Lower Fawn Creek fire during the day, and that a lot of progress was made. Spotting has been a big problem with this fire, and one spot took five acres.

It was also reported that part of a dozer line has been completed and two crews and two helicopters were working the Sunset Peak fire. A third crew was expected to be on the fire later in the evening. Spotting and trees torching could be potential problems on this fire as well.

Temperatures are expected to be 85 degrees on Wednesday compared to 81 degrees at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Most of the energy in the front moving in is expected to miss this area. Thursday they are expecting cooler temperatures, but they said that winds may increase.

While neither of the fires is fully contained, the briefing sounded optimistic about both of them.

A fire of the size of Fawn Creek creates a need to set up a fire camp to take care of crews as well as overhead.

Approximately 40 people are working the fire camp located at the Double Arrow Homestead Cabin, which includes finance, planning, supplies, cooking and drivers.

Logistics gets the firefighters, equipment, etc. to the fires, and then makes sure that all is taken care of for the duration of the fire.

The seven member DARLOA Board voted unanimously to offer the Homestead Cabin site for the fire camp to help protect the valley from the threat of fire. Board Member George Frasca said the Board would like to give a special thanks to the Bob and Barbara Ralston and Vickie and Jim Jardine who are closest to the camp. It's difficult to find a suitable place to establish a fire camp, and we were happy to support the camp, he said.