A s a warm up for the 2016 Learning from a Legacy of Wilderness Fire Workshop, Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest and the Northern Rockies Fire Science Network (NRFSN) hosted a field trip just outside the wilderness boundary. Forty-four managers, scientists, and students learned about fire management on this wilderness district.
In 2015, the most expensive fire season in the Northern Rockies since 2006, Spotted Bear Ranger District recorded 42 fire starts. The Bear and Trail Creek fires together burned 86,155 acres (Bear Creek fire alone burned 65,438 acres) and cost $1,874,895, a relatively low cost for managing fire on 86,155 acres. On August 20th, the Bear Creek fire ran more than 9 miles and burned more than 16,000 acres in approximately 5 hours. Despite 3 vehicles and some camper and hay trailers burnt, the district was able to evacuate >70 head of stock. No firefighters, public, or stock were injured.
This field trip summary highlights the following topics:
- Management decisions: to suppress or not suppress
- Importance of fire experience among local managers
- Public access
- Fuel treatment
- Fire spread predictive modeling
- Post-fire concerns in wilderness