Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

St. Mary Lodge and the Red Eagle Fire.

Response to Red Eagle Fire an Interagency Success

Glacier National Park, Montana

On July 28, 2006, the Red Eagle Fire started on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. It quickly burned onto reservation lands of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe and consumed much of the forested vegetation in the Divide Creek watershed. This became an urgent issue because Divide Creek flows adjacent to the community of St. Mary, Montana, by Park housing and infrastructure at the Glacier East Entrance, and under the Going to the Sun Road.

Wildland fires can produce watershed conditions that threaten life and property. The forest acts to protect the soil from rain splash impact and the thick duff layers act as a sponge to absorb and store rainfall releasing it slowly over time. When these buffers are removed, the post-fire landscapes are much more likely to produce floods.

Red Eagle Interagency BAER Team.

BAER team inspecting the floodplain around St. Mary.

Recognizing the situation, resource managers from the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs assembled a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team. BAER Teams assess burned watersheds to determine if flood conditions exist. They also examine other threats such as burned hazard trees along travel routes and invasive species coming into freshly barren soils.

The Red Eagle BAER Team is an interagency collaborative success story. Specialists were assembled from the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, Blackfeet Tribe, and U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with other local, Federal and Tribal personnel.

The team quickly determined that there were post-fire threats to St. Mary and National Park Service facilities and an emergency flood plan was established. A GIS shape file of the fire perimeter was provided to the National Weather Service so they could track storm systems coming into the burned watershed. The U.S. Geological Survey installed an emergency warning and flood gauging system.

The first significant post-fire rain event was predicted by the National Weather Service for Wednesday, August 16, 2006. With preparations in place, the community was safely evacuated. The precipitation came in the form of two inches of hail which melted slowly and produced little runoff. However, the event served as a valuable exercise for local emergency management officials who will be adequately prepared when the next rain event occurs.

Contact: Rich Schwab, National BAER Coordinator, NPS
Phone: (208) 387-5642