When the Sprague Fire was first sighted it was extremely small. With Lake McDonald so close one might have thought that the National Park Service would have used aerial drops of water. Possibly the large water scooper plane being used at Seeley Lake could have been used. In addition fire retardant drops could have been made. Sadly, none of that was done in spite of the extreme fire weather conditions that occurred. Very dry conditions existed, low humidity was the norm, high temperatures were the norm and occasional afternoon winds provided the ingredients necessary for major fire activity.
Had the Sprague Fire been vigorously attacked when it was first seen, Sperry Chalet would likely be standing today. The chalet would have reopened after the Sprague Fire was controlled. Trails would have reopened. And the early closure of the Lake McDonald Lodge might not have been necessary because of the smoke.
But the park held fast to monitoring the fire only. Once the fire expanded to over 500 acres it took on a life of its own. And the wind and fuels guided the fire to new areas and a much larger size. Unfortunately, Sperry Chalet became one of the new areas attacked by the fire. The firefighting precautions taken at Sperry Chalet were no match for the firestorm that came during the afternoon of August 31st. The park had made a huge mistake by not using common sense in the face of the existing fire weather conditions and not vigorously attacking the fire at its start.
The price has been paid and the historic chalet is in ruins!
Some Glacier Park personnel have to be held accountable for the extraordinarily bad decision that was made. But ultimately it comes down to the park superintendent. It was his call. In my opinion his very poor judgment has cost us all. Perhaps a full investigation by the director of the National Park Service is warranted. And possibly some positive changes for future actions might come. But in the end, whether or not this superintendent survives his position, in my opinion he will always be known as the man who allowed the loss of Sperry Chalet.
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