Interagency Cooperation Leads to Big Prairie Prescribed Fire Success

A fire crew stands near an engine with snowy mountains in the distance.
ire crews from the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park prepare to ignite the Big Prairie prescribed fire on April 24, 2013

“The implementation of the burn was successful in large part due to the assistance we received from our neighbors on the Flathead National Forest and support from other divisions.”
—Glacier Fire Management Officer Dave Soleim

Glacier National Park fire management teamed up with firefighters from the neighboring Flathead National Forest to conduct an important burn to restore the landscape of Big Prairie in April 2013. Crews completed one of eight burn units for 144 acres of a 700-acre project area in a complex of prairies north of Polebridge in the North Fork area on the west side of Glacier National Park.

“The implementation of the burn was successful in large part due to the assistance we received from our neighbors on the Flathead National Forest and support from other divisions,” said Glacier Fire Management Officer Dave Soleim. “Since we conducted the burn in April, we were only able to bring in one fire seasonal, so we relied heavily on firefighters from the Flathead National Forest to augment our permanent fire staff and other divisions.”

Small flames in rows consume grasses in a meadow.
Firefighters ignited the 144-acre Big Prairie prescribed fire in Glacier National Park on April 24, 2013.

The primary objective of the prescribed fire was to reduce the lodgepole pine encroaching on the prairies. The spring burn was unique for Glacier National Park.

“This is the first time we have attempted spring burning in the park,” Soleim said. “In the past, we burned the units in the fall, but it was always difficult to find a window, not to mention the added complexities of staffing that late in the season compounded by the changing fiscal years.”

What really made the Big Prairie prescribed fire possible, though, was the Flathead National Forest providing firefighting resources to Glacier at no cost. The firefighters completed blacklining on April 18 and returned to burn the unit on April 24. The last time firefighters were able to burn one of the units was in 2005, but most of the Big Prairie area hadn’t seen prescribed fire since the late 1990s.

“We'll continue to monitor this burn to make sure we’re meeting resource objectives,” Soleim said. “But as far as interagency cooperation and collaboration, this project was truly a success.”

Contact: Dave Soleim, Glacier National Park fire management officer
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (406) 888-5803