Timing is everything, especially when it comes to responding to a wildfire in a park that is more than a 3½ hour drive from the duty station of the fire staff.
Wildland Fire: Collaboration Key During Grant Kohrs July 4 Fire
The Glacier National Park fire management staff provides fire support to Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (GRKO) in Deer Lodge, Montana, 218 miles south. GRKO has initial attack agreements with the nearby Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF). Typically, the Deer Lodge Volunteer Fire Department and Montana DNRC are the first responders to GRKO’s grass and brush fires until replaced by BDNF fire crews.
During dry conditions, trains sometimes ignite fires, potentially posing a threat to both historic structures on the ranch and to the town of Deer Lodge. On July 1, 2012, embers from a passing train’s smokestack started two small fires, one on the north end of GRKO and the other right outside the park’s boundary. Brad Harris, Glacier’s fire management specialist-fuels, was returning from the High Park fire in Colorado on July 1, and Fire Management Officer Dave Soleim asked Harris to stop by GRKO on his way home to make sure the fire’s documentation was complete. While Harris was there, Soleim suggested he stay on for a few days inventorying the cache, working on the pump and pump trailer, and conducting structure assessments.
Harris was in the cache, working on the inventory, on July 4 when a GRKO employee called to tell him a train had started some fires in the park again. Harris responded as incident commander for six fires in the park, all started by a passing train. He had engines respond from Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and the Deer Lodge Volunteer Fire Department. By the end of the day, firefighters had the fires controlled.
“It can be challenging to support a park that is that far away during a fire response,” Soleim said. “This just happened to work out perfectly, with Brad coming home from an assignment with a few days left on his 14-day tour. Not only was he able to complete some important work in the cache and conduct structure assessments, but he was also able to fulfill a key leadership role and provide general fire guidance to the park during a busy fire day.”
Contact: Dave Soleim, Glacier National Park fire management officer
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (406) 888-5803