Eureka Basin Fire


The Gravelly Range

A story of a Montana Mountain Range. Where the white bark pine grow and the Shepard's graze their sheep in the meadows.

Approaching the scene it was apparent the fire was established and had potential to grow.

I could feel the blades of the helicopter bite for air as we lifted off to take the first recon flight. The vibration shimmered through the aircraft with each pass. As I gazed out the window, I noticed stringers of continues timber down-wind from the origin of the fire. My prediction confirmed, It had room to run!

Spot fires established themselves ahead of the fire front and quickly grew.

As the sun set on the horizon and painted natures masterpiece, a peaceful calm took hold of the scene. The evening inversion began to set in and the smell of smoke lingered in the air. Crews were tired and a since of defeat weighed heavy on their minds. Yet tomorrow brought another day. As I placed the order for more resources, I gazed across the mountain range. I could not ask for a more beautiful office.

The next day's low relative humidity and high temperature brought much of the same. This area of Montana backcountry hadn't seen fire for years. It was primed and ready to burn. The forest floor was filled with thick dead and down slash that was waist deep in places.

Load and Return Each helicopter assigned to the incident played a key role in keeping fire contained to the west of the road. By holding fire to the west, we could minimize the possibility of fire threatening structures to the east in the valley bottom.

It wouldn't be long till the historic West Fork Cabin would be threatened.

West Fork Cabin Structure Protection Group went to work. Crews established a plan and executed it with precision.

In those fleeting moments as the fire front approached the historic cabin one questioned remained...

Where would it stop and would it take the cabin with it?

As the fire crested the ridge I could smell the burning debris and feel the wind as it buffeted our bodies. The sounds of the blades from each helicopter echoed through the smoke filled air as each ship approached the dip site.

Each day brought with it a new battle. We won some and lost others.

Everyone crew member played a part in containing critical pieces of fire line.

It's fires like this one when the words of Confucius ring true....

"Find a job you love and never work another day in your life." -Confucius

In the end, the ecosystem will be stronger and healthier. The cabin was saved and the sheep returned home. Wildland Fires are an intricate part of our western ecosystems. We are all continuing to learn how to live with such a powerful side of nature and fully understand the important role it plays in our national forest lands.

Be part of the journey on Steller and Instagram

Michael Gue @young_men_and_fire

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