Nothing sums up wildland firefighters’ penchant for safety than do their fire-resistant yellow shirts.
So when fire ecologist Lynn Bennett recalled an incident commander on the Mustang Complex fire saying his Hotshot crews felt so secure taking a stand along Hughes Creek “they’d fight with their shirts off,” he couldn’t think of a more emphatic endorsement of a forest health project there.
The Mustang fire was on its way to burning 340,659 acres in the mountains along the Montana-Idaho border just south of Lost Trail Ski Area. When it started the last week of July, a heli-rappel team of firefighters tried to contain it. As one fire manager put it, they got their gear baked as the flames chased them out of the woods.
Through much of August, the fire ran about 18 miles west along the Salmon River. Around the last week of the month, its eastern flank made some huge runs, burning over multiple drainages and scorching 30,000 acres a day. The last defensible spot before it reached the U.S. Highway 93 corridor was in Hughes Creek. It proved to be a good defense.