Fire Stuff and Things

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Wild fires are all the news now and like everyone, Iím ready for snow. Much public criticism of Glacier Parkís handling of Sperry Chalet loss, some justified others questionable. In my 11 years of forest fire fighting and instructing, never had a similar summer so am waiting for facts and reviews to be done. In the meantime my partners and I have had a tough week of concern for Moose City because of the Elder Creek Fire in Canada and Glacier Park. Am repeating a fire report from the bad summer of 2003:

As a newsman, the forest fires have dominated my life for the last two weeks. Ironically, both the Wedge and Robert fires have also been a source of considerable personal concern because Iris and I worked and saved for many years to become land owners at Moose City and Bailey Lake. As I write this, we and our friends are still vulnerable to loss should things not go right. The day Robert started, son-in-law Shawn Price pulled our trailer out of Bailey Lake, but the seven cabins at Moose City are not so easily protected. Fingers remained crossed.

For the record, it is my opinion the Alaska Incident Command Team sent here has been efficient and had the guts and self confidence to do what had to be done. None of these characteristics were shown by those in charge two years ago on the Moose fires. When this yearís team back-burned Apgar Mountain I remarked on the radio, ďThe worst threat nature could throw at us was met today with the finest wildire fighting technology and planning known in the world.Ē That sums things up regarding the sad, awesome, beautiful, fightening scene as Apgarís seventy-year accumulation of forest, bushes, and flowers were devoured in a few hours by flames reaching toward the sky.

One evening I was returning from the fires on the North Fork Road south of Bailey Lake and saw a small moose calf struggle up onto the pavementís northbound lane. A northbound truck came around the corner. the driver did not slow down or show signs of avoiding the calf. He did honk and the frightened little moose scrambled for footing and barely got off as the truck sped past. Canít believe there was any fire-fighting supply in that truck that justified the driverís indifference to a frightened creature.

Coming down from Camas Road the day after the north part of that burn-out was set, saw a whitetail buck with large set of velvet horns standing in the smoke. He didnít appear to be particularly concerned and continued feeding. I wondered why the KREM-TV truck ahead of me didnít film what was a dramatic scene.

Speaking of KREM, as media people were preparing to leave West Glacier on that ďshow-meĒ trip, a ranger said I couldnít go in the fire area without a fire resistant shirt. Told him Iíd be right back and headed down to Sheriff Jim Dupontís base at Kruger Copters. Saw Jim Stotts from the State Fire Marshals office, talked him out of his shirt and headed back. Then the ranger said I had to have fire resistant pants. A young lady from KREM was standing by her van, reached in and threw me a pair which she said were extras.

There I was, standing on the road in rolling smoke, trying to pull on a pair of pants 10 sizes too small and these other people were waiting and watching. One of them eventually said, ďHurry up Ostrom. We want to get going.Ē Thatís when I made the boo-boo of the day.

Irritated and upset, I yelled, ďCanít you see? Iím having trouble getting into this girlís pants.Ē

Thatís the way it was in the summer of 2003.

G. George Ostrom is an award-winning columnist. He lives in Kalispell.

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