From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 14 - June 28, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Horse Creek Fire continues to show growth

by Janet Montgomery

The Horse Creek Fire started with 40 acres last Thursday, then erupted from its estimated size of 800 acres Monday morning to 1,200 and then again on Tuesday to 2,200 acres. Wednesday morning, the fire size was at 3,575 acres.

“We saw 100-foot flame lengths, and the fire was easily carried through the treetops,” said Big Piney District Ranger Greg Clark in a Friday release from the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF). Clark also said this type of fire activity is early for this time of year.

“It is burning as if it is August,” he said.

Tuesday evening, the sun set red in the sky through the smoke streaking in the west over the fire area.

Firefighters are basing much of their operation off Horse Creek Road, which is now closed to all traffic but authorized fire personnel as of Monday. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

About eight miles from the crossroads of Merna and west of the towns of Daniel and Pinedale, the fire is in almost the same location as the 2002 Mule fire.

The BTNF began releasing information through press releases sent out daily to spread the word about the fire.

The dry conditions are coupled with windy weather, setting the stage for active fire behavior. Fire fighters expect torching and spotting to continue along the flanks and head of the fire. The fire continued to move Tuesday and Wednesday, spotting to a quarter of a mile in timber areas as it crept and smolded through previously burned areas. Little to no humidity recovery Tuesday night resulted in the fire behavior increasing early on Wednesday as the fire grew to the southeast and east, according to the Web site

“It is bone-dry out there,” Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton said in a release. “I can’t stress enough how important it is going to be that we are all careful with fire while we are out and about in the forest.”

The number of fire personnel fighting the blaze has grown from 60 to about 217 by Wednesday, as the blaze continued to burn lodgepole pine, alpine fur and engleman spruce in the area.

Monday, Merrill Saleen’s Type 2 Incident Management Team arrived and has assumed operation of the Horse Creek Fire.

According to a release, the primary mission of the Incident Management Team is to provide the Bridger-Teton with skilled and mobile personnel to assist with the management of the Horse Creek fire.

When a fire exceeds the resources and skill level of the existing forest-level management, fire officials call on national-level teams to come in and assume control as the operations expand.

The fire danger rating rose from moderate to high by Sunday, and a high fire danger means fires are harder to control. A Type 2 Team is qualified to oversee as many as 500 fire personnel and supervise more complex operations, such as coordinating more shifts of firefighters and incorporating more complicated suppression methods. Type 1 Teams are the most highly specialized teams for the largest, most complex fire incidents.

The Horse Creek Fire comes on the heels of an elaborate interagency fire training that was conducted last weekend.

The “All Fire Days” training is an annual event where firefighters from Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties, as well as federal firefighters from the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park come together and train for response to large fires such as the one burning on Horse Creek.

“We are implementing the very thing we trained for last Saturday,” BTNF Officer Rod Dykehouse said. “The training last weekend emphasized firefighter safety and helped each organization become familiar with the equipment used by each agency and practice communication across jurisdictions, and that is a real benefit to us today.”

Fire crews continue to focus containment efforts on the south and east portions of the fire. The Web site indicates that 10 percent of the blaze is contained, and a July 2 containment date is listed.

Fire Timeline

* Thursday, June 21: Day 1
Horse Creek Fire ignites

At about 3 p.m., a fire started in the Big Piney Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Horse Creek Fire is roughly 40 acres in size and is burning eight miles west of the town of Merna off Horse Creek Road. No structures are threatened and trail closures are not expected at the time. The cause of the fire is unknown and there are several Interagency crews working on keeping the fire north of the highway.

The fire danger for the Bridger-Teton is listed as moderate.

* Friday, June 22: Day 2
Horse Creek Fire activity increases

As of 11 a.m., the Horse Creek Fire had grown to about 600 acres. More than 60 fire personnel and overhead staff are working on the fire. One helicopter is operating on the burn with an additional ship ordered and expected to arrive later Friday. Still, no structures are threatened, and the cause of the fire remains unknown.

* Saturday, June 23: Day 3
Horse Creek Fire shows slow growth

The Horse Creek Fire didn’t experience much growth from Friday afternoon. A map of the fire obtained by using the global positioning system (GPS) from a helicopter flight Friday evening revealed that the fire had burned 776 acres since its ignition on June 21.

About 200 fire personnel and two helicopters are working to suppress the fire. Several of the firefighters assisting with the control of the fire are from the neighboring counties.

There are no structures threatened by the fire, and the cause of the blaze is still undetermined.

* Saturday, June 23: Day 3
Nylander Fire ignites

The Nylander Creek Fire was reported at 3:45 p.m. Saturday. The fire burned in the North Cottonwood Creek drainage near Nylander Creek. Resources that responded to the scene include a Type II helicopter and crew, a Type I helicopter, Sublette County Daniel Engine with more resources on order.

The fire was reported at about three acres and included active surface fire, spotting and torching. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

No area, road or trail closures are currently in effect but crews and helicopters are working on the fire and the public is urged to stay out of the area.

The Horse Creek fire is still burning and is about 10-percent contained. Fire Danger on the Bridger-Teton remains moderate.

* Sunday, June 24: Day 4
Fire fighters fighting two fires

Interagency firefighters are still battling two fires on the Big Piney District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Horse Creek Fire, which started on Thursday, June 21 is 800 acres and is burning eight miles west of Merna. The Nylander Fire, which ignited on Saturday, June 23 about 25 miles west of Daniel, is four acres in size. Eight smokejumpers are working on the Nylander Fire with about 200 fire personnel working on the Horse Creek fire.

The cause of both fires is unknown, and there are no trail or road closures associated with these fires. There are no structures threatened by either fire.

The fire danger for the Bridger-Teton is has moved from moderate to high.

* Monday, June 25: Day 5
Fires become more active

Firefighters continued to battle two fires on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Horse Creek Fire has grown to 961 acres and is very active Monday, putting up a lot of smoke in the area. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Forest has closed the road to everyone except authorized fire personnel.

The Nylander Fire is expected to be controlled Monday and has burned four acres. A fire engine will remain on that fire and monitor it until it is extinguished.

* Monday, June 25: Day 5
Bridger-Teton National Forest gets assistance on Horse Creek Fire

The weather has not been in favor of the firefighters who are working to suppress the Horse Creek Fire, which has grown to roughly 1,200 acres Monday afternoon due to the winds in the area, and it has filled the valley with smoke. The fire began creeping east today as the fire was “spotting” or sending spots of fire out in front of the main fire line.

Merrill Saleen’s Type 2 Incident Management Team will arrive on the Bridger-Teton Monday night to meet with fire officials before they assume control of the Horse Creek Fire.

The fire danger rating for the Bridger-Teton is listed as high, which is an increase from the moderate rating from last week.

* Tuesday, June 26: Day 6
Smoke visible from Horse Creek Fire

The Horse Creek Fire on the Bridger-Teton National Forest nearly doubled to 2,200 acres, but the fire is 10-percent contained. About 217 fire personnel are assigned to the fire, including 11 engines from US Forest Service, Sublette County and National Park Service. Three helicopters: a Type I, Type II and Type II. Four Type I hand crews with two more arriving today, four Type II hand crews, two Sublette County dozers, a watertender and various overhead.

There are no structures threatened by this fire, and Horse Creek Road is closed to all but authorized fire personnel.

The cause of the Horse Creek fire is still under investigation.

Timeline is complied from information released from the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

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