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Firefighters come from 'all over'
to fight Goat Creek Canyon blaze

by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
May 7, 1998

Firefighters in the Swan Valley continued to battle a 150-acre blaze in the Goat Creek Canyon on Tuesday.

According to Swan River State Forest supervisor Glen Gray, fire conditions now are more like July than May.

"This is highly uncommon. We have large fuels with low fuel moisture, more typical of July. The relative humidity is typical of July," he explained. "We don't normally expect this kind of potential until July."

The main 150-acre Goat Creek fire also started a spot fire, which burned an additional 50 acres since Sunday.

The Goat Creek fire, located in a canyon on both Plum Creek and Forest Service property, made its initial run on Sunday, Gray said. It grew from 70 acres on Sunday to 150 acres on Monday because of strong, down-canyon winds Sunday evening, Gray explained.

On Monday, Gray said, the fire "did some creeping downhill" but otherwise, changed very little in size.

The fire is burning in "goat rocks, cliffs and talus," Gray said, describing the rugged country. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said.

The fire was about half contained as of noon on Tuesday, Gray said, and fire personnel hoped to have it completedly under control by late Wednesday.

Firefighters received some reprieve from the weather the second day of the fire. "We had better humidity recovery Monday night than since the fire started," Gray said. "Also, we didn't get the strong, forecasted winds."

About 150 firefighters were working in the steep canyon area on Tuesday. Gray expected more firefighters to arrive in Condon Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Fire personnel were using the Condon Work Center as a base camp on Tuesday. According to Forest Service Information Officer Diana Enright, firefighters are coming from "all over" to help control this fire.

Enright advised local residents who burned slash piles earlier this spring to check their piles again. "If you think that the piles are out, you should check them again anyway, in case there are lingering hot spots," she said.

Enright, who flew into Condon from Lewiston on Tuesday, commented that conditions are dry throughout the region. "There's not much snow left on the mountains anywhere," she said.

Enright reminded local residents that burning permits are required in the Swan Valley from May 1 through September 30, and that dry conditions may cause permits to be cancelled. Residents should contact the Swan River State Forest north of Condon, the Seeley Lake Ranger Station, or the Seeley Lake Fire Department for more information about local conditions.

The Swan River State Forest provides direct fire protection for forest lands in the Swan Valley from Lost Creek near Swan Lake, to the Flathead-Clearwater Divide north of Condon.

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