Saturday, June 09, 2018

How firefighters gambled and lost the Sperry Chalet

As the Sprague fire danced slowly across the west side of Glacier National Park last summer, fire managers put the bulk of their resources into protecting Lake McDonald Lodge and nearby private homes. They gambled that the fire would move west, toward the lake, and that rocky terrain, a sprinkler system, four firefighters and minimal fireproofing would protect the popular Sperry Chalet, about 2 miles to the east. They lost the bet. The fire exploded. In a single night, it doubled in size, roaring north, south — and east. Now, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing spending $12 million in public funds to rebuild the historic structure. An investigation is wrapping up on the firestorm that left only the chalet's stone walls and two chimneys intact. Official information about the Sprague fire is expected to be released “soon” as part of a Facilitated Learning Analysis, typically undertaken after an “incident within an incident” occurs. Until then, Glacier National Park officials and the U.S. Forest Service have declined to discuss in detail the events that led to the chalet’s demise. However, documents requested by the Missoulian, known as Incident Action Plans or IAPs, outline what management actions were undertaken prior to the ember storm that burned the Sperry Chalet. The IAP is a roadmap of firefighting strategy...MORE

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