USA– With thick smoke impeding visibility and foiling aircraft operations over the past couple of days, BNSF Railway trains have been shuttling fire crews and heavy equipment into the Sheep Fire at the southern edge of Glacier National Park.
There firefighters have been working to build containment lines during a lull in fire activity.
Fire management team spokesman Greg Dinetto said Wednesday that three feller bunchers and a skidder have been railed in to help created a shaded fuel break downwind of the fire.
It is still burning about a half mile from U.S. 2 and a mile south of the community of Essex.
Each train can deliver three 20-person crews to the fire line, and Dinetto said about 70 firefighters were working throughout the day. Once cut, logs are shuttled out of the area by train and stored for the Forest Service to dispose of.
Dinetto said that as of Wednesday afternoon, no helicopters had been able to fly. The aircraft have been mostly grounded over the past several days as temperature inversions have held smoke from fires farther west along the ground until well into the afternoon.
In Essex, two specialized BNSF trains are stationed to assist with the firefighting effort.
One has been deployed from Havre, and BNSF spokesman Matt Jones said it comes equipped with three 16,000-gallon water tanks used to fill the mobile retardant station used to mix fire retardant for helicopter drops.
It can also be used to refill a 10,000-gallon water bladder at the railroad trestle at Goat Lick, which is just a third of a mile northeast of the Sheep Fire and has been outfitted with pumps, hoses and sprinkler systems.
A firefighting train has also arrived in Essex from Spokane and Jones said it will be used if the fire continues to advance down the hill.
It includes a converted log car outfitted with a water cannon capable of spraying 300 feet up an embankment, along with two water tanker cars and a car hauling firefighting foam.
The Granite Fire is also being managed by the team, and Dinetto said that no crews are fighting the fire, although some personnel were in the area scouting out possible locations for fuel breaks and fire lines.
At this point, we would like to get in and start doing some work around the Granite Fire, but we just dont have the resources, so weve focused on the sheep fire, he said.
Across the highway, the Thompson Fire was still smoldering at 16,854 acres in Glacier Parks Nyack Drainage, with no new fire growth reported.