Seeley Ranger District busy with storm cleanup, fire planning

A reader submitted photo of a trailer damaged by a spruce tree, which snapped at the base during the weekend storms.

Strong winds and wildfires have kept the Seeley Lake Ranger District busy this past week, with crews working to clean up storm damage at one campground while planning their strategy on a fire near a steep but popular wilderness trail.

On Friday, a strong line of thunderstorms pushed through the Seeley-Swan Valley, landing a direct blow on Lake Alva. The 50-mph winds uprooted trees and snapped one 30-inch spruce at the base.

The tree crushed a camper trailer.

“We felt it was our responsibility to remove the tree from the camper, but because of the damage to the private vehicle, it wasn’t safe for our sawyers to use their certification to remove the tree from the tangled wires and cabinetry,” District Ranger Rachel Feigley said Tuesday.

“We hired a contractor to come in and remove the tree from the camper, and we paid for that,” she added. “The folks who owned the camper trailer itself will be removing the camper from the site. They felt confident their insurance would pay for it.”

Feigley confirmed that an infant had been sleeping in the trailer when the healthy tree came down, nearly splitting the vehicle in two. No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred at the group site.

The storm also uprooted other trees, with some crossing the loop road or cluttering the boat launch. Several campers jumped on the downed trees with their chainsaws to clear the roadway.

Forest Service crews completed the work and are expected to return Tuesday.

Feigley said the Forest Service had just finished a mitigation project on the site, removing hazardous trees and those infected with spruce budworm.

“We moved forward with a project to remove some of the sub-alpine fir that was affected by the budworm,” she said. “It was a joint effort between our recreation crew and fire crew, and we had just done a thinning in the loop area. If we hadn’t done that work when we did, it could have been worse.”

As crews continue storm cleanup, the Seeley Lake Ranger District is turning its attention to a nearby wildfire, which was reported on Sunday night.

The Monahan fire is located 17 miles north of Ovando up the East Fork of Monture Creek, between Limestone Pass and Monahan Mountain in steep and rocky terrain.

Trail closures go into effect today, including Trail 402, Trail 27 and Trail 402.