Oldest of Glacier’s cedars spared from Sprague Fire

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  • The easternmost edge of the Sprague Fire extends to Moose Country, but has not crossed the McDonald Valley Trail.

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    Safety officer and Flathead Hot Shot Shawn Borgen looks out at a sprinkler system set up on the Johnís Lake Trail.

  • The easternmost edge of the Sprague Fire extends to Moose Country, but has not crossed the McDonald Valley Trail.

  • 1

    Safety officer and Flathead Hot Shot Shawn Borgen looks out at a sprinkler system set up on the Johnís Lake Trail.

Last week out in the woods near Johnís Lake in Glacier National Park a sprinkler chunked water into the trees.

The Sprague Fire in was still smoldering above the trail and the sprinklers wet the woods to keep the slow moving ground fire from crossing the trail.

While Sprague was a destructive force ó it has burned about 17,000 acres, including destroying the Sperry Chalet ó it did not burn most of the Parkís ancient cedar trees that line the McDonald Creek Valley.

The fire has not crossed the McDonald Valley Trail, where the oldest of the Parkís cedar forests reside downslope from the trail.

The fireís northernmost fingers were creeping along the forest floor just above Moose Country, a wide spot in the valley along the Going-to-the-Sun Road where moose are often seen.

On warm days, the fire might move 20 to 30 feet. On wet days, it doesnít move at all, said fire safety officer and Flathead Hotshots Superintendent Shawn Borgen.

All told, about three miles of hose and sprinklers were strung along the trail, pumps humming in the background.

But on other reaches of the fire, crews have been demobilizing. About 55,000 feet of hose has been taken down in the past couple of days alone.

The fire has been helped by cooler, wetter, weather earlier this week. In the past two days, West Glacier has seen .42 inches of rain.

The fire burned hottest in the Lincoln Creek drainage. It may take two seasons to get trails to Sperry Chalet and Mount Brown reopened, park officials have noted.

Crews this week were expected to begin stabilization on the chalet. RBM Lumber of Columbia Falls donated beams toward the project, which were being airlifted to the chalet via helicopter.

A park construction crew is going to stabilize the stone walls of the gutted chalet so it has a better chance to survive the winter and the deep snows that typically accumulate in the basin.

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