Scoopers part of fire fight

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Two “Super Scooper” air tankers have joined the fight against the West Garceau Fire burning about 15 miles west of Polson.

Currently based at Glacier Park International Airport, the distinctive yellow Canadair CL-215s can scoop up more than 1,400 gallons of water in just 10 seconds.

The tankers have been scooping water out of Big Arm Bay on Flathead Lake with a turnaround time of about seven minutes in reaching the nearby West Garceau Fire, according to fire information officer Jennifer Costich.

The tankers came from Kingman, Ariz., and have been pre-positioned in the Flathead for other firefighting duties for the last few days.

“They’ve been available for other fires,” Costich said, noting that the planes were sent to a fire in the Arlee area.

The West Garceau Fire most recently was sized at about 9,100 acres, and most firefighting effort have been focused on its active southern flank.

The fire started Aug. 13.

“Crews have continued to make great progress,” Costich said. “They have rough firelines around a lot of the fire, but there are more than 30 miles of fire perimeter.”

There are 270 people working on the fire, along with engines, heavy equipment, helicopters and the Super Scoopers that haven’t been seen on Flathead Lake since the 2007 Chippy Creek Fire.

The Super Scoopers also saw duty on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park during the massive fires of 2003.

The Condon Mountain Fire, meanwhile, was most recently sized at 1,500 acres, with much of the most recent growth due to burnouts that have been conducted within indirect fire lines.

Rick Connell, fire management officer for the Flathead National Forest, said the Super Scoopers were being considered for use on the Condon Mountain Fire.

And late Monday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced that Lindbergh Lake would be closed to public access today to allow the tankers to safely scoop water for the Condon Mountain Fire.

There are a total of 113 people working on the fire, which is located about four miles northeast of Condon. The lightning-caused Condon Mountain Fire first was detected July 28.

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at jmann@dailyinterlake.com.

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