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The one that got away

by webmaster |

After 43 years as a firefighter's eye in the sky, Jim Haslip knows fire. People who know Haslip say that when looking for wildfires from his perch in a four-seater spotter plane, he can tell at a glance which "smoke" a hazy column that often indicates a fire can be caught and which one is going to run.

Haslip spotted this year's Snowbank Fire and is convinced it never should have grown beyond a quarter-acre near Copper Creek. That blaze, which merged with the Talon Fire to become the Snow/Talon, eventually consumed more than 37,700 acres.

In addition, there are questions as to whether the Moose Fire, which at one point threatened the towns of Helmville and Lincoln, would have done so if the initial attack upon it was made the evening it was spotted, instead of waiting until the next day. The Moose Fire, which connected with the Wasson Fire and other small blazes to become the Moose/Wasson blaze, burned 1,945 acres.

And after spending $16.5 million on the two fires known as the Lincoln Complex only the Moose/Wasson was extinguished by human efforts. Firefighters worked mainly on the south side of the Snow/Talon blazes, eventually herding them into the Scapegoat Wilderness Area and waiting for snow to smother the flames in what is called "the least cost alternative."