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Fires near the Field Station
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Correspondence from Mark Leonard, Executive Director

Link to an article on the Pony Fire from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, dated June 28th. here

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Tuesday morning, July 3rd
It was a very calm clear day today and the firefighters made a lot of headway. Fire now considered 45% contained - primarily along edge closest to IUGFS. This will be my last report unless a significant flareup occurs with the Pony fire.

Monday morning, July 2nd
Some very good news. It rained last evening, although only a tenth of an inch or so, slowing the fire, but not putting it out. The temp dropped from 86 to 64 in ten minutes as the front moved through our area. This morning it was 47 degrees when I left for Butte to herd the students back to the field station. Last night Bruce, Ed and I met with the Incident Commander and the Chief Liaison Officer to get a briefing and discuss our plans and show them our study areas. They agreed to let our students into the field station this morning. We agreed on timing and protocol for using the S Boulder Road into the station. About 80% of our study areas are outside of the fire impact zone (some are 10's of miles away). We will continue contact with them and get their permission before entering any areas near the fire impact area. I'm at Montana Tech finalizing our dorm stay - the students should be having breakfast in the IUGFS Lodge by now.

Sunday evening, July 1st
Glorious rain! Rain, hail and lightning started at 5pm. Temp dropped from 86 to 64 in 10 minutes. Raining hard still at IUGFS at 5:45.

Sunday morning, July 1st
Calm, but smoky right now. It was 48 deg when we left at 6 am to take breakfast to students in Butte. Firefighters expect a windy day. Fire now 10% contained. 342 firefighters are working on the Pony fire.

Saturday evening, June 30th
Wind calm and 85 deg. Many helicopter runs today, but instead of dropping water, they were dropping fire to widen the firebreaks in places. The Chief Liaison Officer, Charles Cuvelier, visited IUGFS to give me a rundown. He expects a very windy day tomorrow so we will meet with him tomorrow evening to determine if we let the students into the IUGFS on Monday. The G429 students are now all safely moved into the dorms at Montana Tech in Butte. The G329 students left Bloomington in caravan and are expected to arrive Monday.

Saturday afternoon, June 30
The G429 students will be done with the caravan tonight and will be staying in dorms at Montana Tech on Saturday and Sunday. The G329 students are just beginning their caravan today and are expected to arrive at IUGFS on Monday

Saturday morning, June 30th
The smoke settled in the valley this morning, but lifted quickly. Wind is calm so far. In last night's conference call, they indicated that they continued to focus on the Mammoth area and that the back burn near us was holding well. The fire is still just 5% contained.

Friday evening, June 29th
Slight breeze from south, high clouds, temp 86 deg. Several plumes of smoke throughout the day - all within the firebreak built yesterday. Most equipment and personnel gone from IUGFS, except for tanker, portable water tank and a couple of pumps. Web camera no longer functioning. I toured Montana Tech dorms today - they are very nice. Our students will stay there Saturday and Sunday nights at a minimum.

Friday morning, June 29th
All the equipment is rolling in again this morning - according to the teleconference last night though, there should be less because they have lost some resources to other fires and they will be concentrating their efforts to protect Mammoth. The back burn was very successful and is protecting us for now. It is warmer this morning and is supposed to get hotter and windy today. Right now there is a slight breeze from the south that is making the campus smoky. Last night they said the fire is only 5% contained - not 20% like I heard earlier. We have made plans for the students to stay in dorms at Montana Tech on Saturday and Sunday nights. We will reevaluate after today's results.

Thursday evening, June 28th
The firefighters did a back burn today to help protect the camp. It made quite a plume of smoke, but they feel it was very successful. They plan on moving around to a different sector of the fire tomorrow and we will be losing our pumper protection. I will send more after I participate in this evenings teleconference. I did speak with the incident commander a couple of hours ago and I agreed that we would hold our students out for two days (Saturday and Sunday nights) and reassess this weekend. Montana Tech says they can house us until July 9 if needed.

Thursday noon June 28th
The temp is up in the 80’s but wind has stayed calm with slight breezes from the east. Smoke has started to increase. The picture shows the 8000 gallon tank they plan to put in the pasture for helicopter operations. Medical staff came by and were most interested in and impressed with our 8 new lightweight AED units.

Thursday morning June 28th
Cool this morning, winds calm, firefighters have arrived, done their briefing and moved up the mountain. Fire now 20% contained – mainly on east and south, not the northern edge facing us. They plan to install an 8000 gallon tank in the field south of us to use to load helicopters for water drops. I met with Madison County Commissioner Dan Happel about contingency planning and offered our lodge for any community meetings they may need.

Wednesday, June 27th
The wind is light and from the east, temp is 78 deg and relative humidity up to 15% – a much better day to fight a fire. The ridge in front of us continues to smolder, but there have been 6-8 helicopter water drops in the last hour. Pumper is still on standby here on campus.

Wednesday, June 27
The students in G429 are still enroute and are safe. At this point, they have closed all the roads to the field station so the caravan will not go there until the all clear is given by the firefighters. In the meantime, they are working on securing housing for everyone until they can safely reach the field station. Joanna

Tuesday, June 26th
News is not all good. It is now very windy and blowing our direction at 25 – 30 mph. It will be in the 90’s again today. Only good news is that the fire trucks and EMS unit has returned. Only IU staff (4) and I remain at camp. The forest service students and instructors were sent away and our students are on their way to Rapid City to meet the rest of the group as planned.

Monday, June 25th
The 23 Forest Service students have been evacuated and the G429 students will not enter the camp until it is deemed safe. The G429 students are travelling as scheduled right now, but we will make alternate arrangements if necessary. We are currently working on those details.