The Halstead Fire 18 miles Northwest of Stanley is poised to grow into a fire that gets a lot of attention and perhaps firefighting resources.
The fire in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness burned all night, a sign of the dry conditions in the the high elevation sub-alpine fir, spruce and lodgepole pine forest. It already has grown to 3,700 acres, according to the fire report.
The beetle kill here is near its peak vulnerability to carry a crown fire when conditions are dry enough and the wind blows.
The fire has already closed campgrounds, the scout camp and trails in the Seafoam area. It could burn in the Boundary Creek landing area on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, where most river outfitters are still using since the river’s flows are at about 1,180 cubic feet per second today.
They usually move to flying into Indian Creek downriver when the flows drop to about 900 cfs. So unless the fire quickly moves to force a closure of the Boundary Creek Road, it might not impact Middle Fork trips, a major economic driver in the area.
“In another eight nine days it’s going to be below 900 cfs,” said Sheila Mills of Rocky Mountain River Tours.
But it could burn for the rest of the fire season, which has turned pretty hot since early July. That could present problems eventually for the Stanley area. But the Forest Service isn’t making those kind of predictions yet.
It is waiting for Bob Houseman’s National Incident Management Organization to arrive and organize by Wednesday morning. They have the experts who can predict how big this fire could get.
A few points though. The Forest Service has been fighting it since it started July 27. They didn’t wait even though it is in wilderness.
Even if it had not been in wilderness, the trees were never high value timber and there are not many foresters who would have recommended thinning even with the beetle kill.
The only management that might have stopped the fire would have been massive clearcuts, which again, would not make any sense economically.
This fire just doesn’t fit into the traditional and now tired debates about logging-versus-preservation and full-suppression-versus-let-burn.