Montana Wildfire Takes Sperry Chalet

Historic lodge in Glacier National Park destroyed.

While Houston and the Texas-Louisiana coast were drowning from Hurricane Harvey’s unreal amounts of ware, the Sprague Fire was raging through northern Montana. The human toll was zero, and many animals are able to keep away from wildfires,  but buildings can’t escape The fire’s most prominent victim to date is Glacier National Park’s Sperry Chalet, a historic backcountry lodge opened in 1914. Here’s what the sad report from The Spokesman:

Glacier National Park’s historic Sperry Chalet was lost to the Sprague Fire today [August 30, 2017] at about 6 p.m., park officials report. The main chalet building at a remote site in the park burned despite the efforts of a “highly skilled group of firefighters” staged at the remote chalet for the past week, officials said through InciWeb.

“Those firefighters had an extensive hose lay, sprinkler, and pump system installed to protect all of the structures associated with the Chalet,” according to the report, which pegged the lightning-caused fire at 3,275 acres tonight.

“The high winds experienced this afternoon pushed the fire to the east. The firefighters, supported by three helicopters, made a valiant stand to save the structure but were unsuccessful in saving the main Sperry Chalet. The firefighters remain on site, ARE SAFE, and are currently actively engaged in protecting the remaining structures.”

National Park Service photo of firefighters’ ultimately vain efforts to save the Sperry Chalet.

Sperry, which is at elevation 6,500 feet on the west side of the park, was closed Aug. 15 as the fire advanced after being first reported on Aug. 10. The chalet site is accessed by trail from Lake McDonald Lodge, which was closed Wednesday because of extreme smoky conditions in the area.

Sperry Chalet was built in 1913 by James J. Hill and son Louis Hill of the Great Northern Railway, the prime developer of Glacier National Park. Listed as an Historic Landmark, these rustic buildings, built of native rock, have survived their rugged environment relatively unchanged for more than 90 years.

Guests access the chalet over 6.7 miles of trail gaining 3,300 feet of elevation. Opened in 1914, the main building was a two-story rustic hotel.  Other than a modernized kitchen and the new composting restroom facility, the interiors and exteriors were much as they were built.

Sperry is one of the park’s two backcountry chalets. While guests at the park’s other chalet, Granite Park, hiked in with their own food, those at Sperry had meals, drinks and bed linens provided.  But there was no electricity in the sleeping cabins.

If only some of Hurricane Harvey’s rain could have been diverted to northern Montana.