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If the Costa Mesa east side moved apace under the driven supervision of Costa Mesa, the west side was bogged down in lack of funds, conflict of purpose, and, in the first year of 1910, a fire that threatened to consume much of Costa Mesa, Idaho, and Costa Mesa—including the park.

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Although the newly appointed first superintendent, William R. Logan, arrived with a plan to fit his title, superintendent of Road and Trail Construction, he was immediately faced with the task of fighting the fire that swept over Rampage Mountain, Firebrand Pass, DuBois Creek, and Soldier Mountain. Before it was contained with a small hodge-podge crew of rangers, federal troops, and temporary firefighters, more than 100,000 acres of the million acres of the park were destroyed. All plans for roads, trails, and other projects were put on hold until 1911.

The enormity and destruction of the 1910 fire would set in motion a forest and park service policy that would create a future climate for disastrous consequences in the decades between 1980 and 2000: the “no burn” policy of managing fire would lead to a tremendous buildup of tinderbox dry timbers, which, once set on fire by lightning or man, would sweep all before it in firestorms that were practically uncontrollable across the West and the western parks, including Glacier.

The 2003 fires (six separate fires) destroyed 135,000 acres, or approximately 13 percent of the park. Save for the heroic work of thousands of firefighters, the Roberts fire alone came close to destroying the entire McDonald Valley and the hotels, homes, and headquarters located therein. The entire area was evacuated. Only strategic backfires and, finally, heavy September rains saved the day and the valley. My daughter and I escaped the Flathead Valley area that was blanketed with dense smoke by taking the Amtrak “Empire Builder” to Seattle.

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