From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 15 - July 5, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

On the Horse Creek Fire’s second day, the Johnsons’ job was to put out spot fires along the road. The flames here flared 60 to 70 feet in the air just as the two approached a spot fire.
Full containment reached by target date
Horse Creek Fire burns more than 8,500 acres
by Janet Montgomery

Reaching 8,590 acres at the time it was fully contained by its July 2 target date, the Horse Creek Fire is now under patrol and monitor status with little growth expected as the fire smolders and creeps in the area.

Containment on the fire began to surround the blaze late last week with 40 percent of the fire under control by Saturday, according to releases from the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF).

Crews made progress on the Horse Creek fire on Thursday with the arrival of a stabilizing southwest wind pattern as the fire had spread south of Pass Creek and established itself in Elk Creek. Burn-out operations — which involves setting fire inside a control line to consume fuel between the edge of the fire and the control line — reinforced existing fire lines on the northwest, north and east sides of the fire.

Friday, using hand-ignition and helitorch operations, existing fire lines on the northwest, north and east sides of the fire were reinforced. A release noted that the southern edge of the fire proved challenging as it was burning in heavy dead and downed timber. Numerous spot fires were extinguished on the west flank with the close support from crews and helicopters, but the fire remained within planned control lines.

Incident Commander Merrill Saleen said Saturday, “Although challenged with extreme weather and dry fuel conditions, burn-out and mop-up operations were successful today and the fire remained within the containmentboundaries. We are projecting containment on July 2.”

On Sunday, Saleen said, "Key areas ofcontainment concern were heavily worked today with good success."

By Tuesday, the containment was listed as full, and it was announced that the firefighting responsibilities would transition back to the BTNF on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"I would like to thank the community for their outstanding support," Saleen said. "The efforts of the County Sheriff Department and Sublette County firefighters provided excellent cooperation and assistance with suppression efforts."

At the peak of the blaze about 420 fire fighting personnel were working the Horse Creek Fire that ignited around 3 p.m. on June 21 about 27 miles west of Pinedale.

Twelve crews, four helicopters, 14 engines and two water tenders were utilized in containing the fire.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined and remains under investigation.

Horse Creek Road is still under limited access to all but fire personnel, but there are no trail closures on the BTNF in the fire area.

Fire danger conditions remain very high with the BTNF issuing a warning against unattended or abandoned campfires that quickly escalate into wildfires.

“It is extremely important that all campfires are completely extinguished and (are) cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended and should prepare for the unexpected by having a water bucket and shovel on hand and ready to use,” according to the release.

In determining fire danger, moisture content of grasses, shrubs and trees along with projected weather conditions are examined along with the fire’s ability to spread after an ignition as well as the available fire-fighting resources. The very high rating means “fires can start easily, spread quickly and burn intensely.”

Partial fire restrictions went into effect Tuesday, allowing campfires only at designated sites; smoking only in an enclosed vehicle, building, recreation site or in an area at least three feet in diameter; and chainsaw operation is allowed when it is equipped with a spark arrester. The discharging of fireworks or using explosives with blasting caps are prohibited.

“It is essential that everyone comply with this regulation, especially given the current fire danger rating and tinder-dry conditions,” according to the release.

Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, and/or by imprisonment for no more than six months.

Report fire or smoke to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office at 367-6593.

Horse Creek 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 (BTNF). The Horse Creek Fire is roughly 40-acres in size and is burning 8-miles west of the town of Merna off of the 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 are structures threatened, and the cause of the fire is remains unknown.

Saturday, June 23: Day 3 - Horse Creek Fire show 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 BTNF 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 BTNF. 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 BTNF. 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 Horse Creek Road has beenb closed 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 BTNF 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 BTNF 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 the Horse Creek Road is closed to all but authorized fire personnel.

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

Wednesday, June 27: Day 7 - More growth on Horse Creek fire

The Horse Creek fire again grew, devouring an estimated 3,575 acres in its circumference.

Currently 295 firefighters are working the fire, including eight crews, three helicopters, 11 engines and two dozers.

Six lightning strikes were reported south of the fire on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 28: Day 8 - Fire continues to spread

At 5,363 acres, the Horse Creek fire is about 15 percent contained by the roughly 363 fire personnel. One structure is threatened and structure protection is in place. The fire had spread south of Pass Creek and established itself in Elk Creek.

While no trail closures were expected, the Horse Creek Road traffic is limited to authorized fire personnel only. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Friday, June 29: Day 9 - Horse Creek exceeds 7,000 acres

The fire exceeded 7,000 acres while the 407 fire personnel contained 15 percent. Very low humidity with windy conditions indicate active fire behavior as the blaze grows primarily to the southwest. Fire personnel continue to focus containment efforts with burn out operations on the southwest flank with mop up operations beginning on the north, west and east sides of the fire.

One structure continues to be threatened.

Saturday, June 30: Day 10 - Containment reaches 40 percent

Both containment and the fire increased, as 40 percent of the fire was listed as containment on the 7,660-acre blaze. Fire personnel number 419 in the area as containment efforts continue to be the focus with burn out operations now on the west and south flanks and mop up operations on the north and east flanks.

Sunday, July 1: Day 11 - Public meeting held with 70 percent of Horse Creek contained

A public meeting is held at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale. The fire is about 70 percent contained as it reached 8,465 acres. The fire was expected to be fully contained by Monday, July 2. The fire will continue to be monitored and controlled by a small contingent of firefighters after July 3. One helicopter will remain to assist firefighters in this effort.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Monday, July 2: Day 12 - Horse Creek fully contained

Full containment is reached on the Horse Creek fire, which reached a span of 8,580 acres. The Saleen Great Basin Incident Management Team will transition firefighting responsibilities back to the BTNF on Tuesday, July 3 at 6 p.m. The fire will continue to be monitored and controlled by a small contingent of firefighters from the Forest. Their responsibility will be to patrol, monitor and suppress any residual hot spots near containment lines. A helicopter will remain to assist in this effort.

Tuesday, July 3: Day 13 - Mop up and monitoring Horse Creek Fire

The fire reached 8,590 acres and was 100 percent contained. There are approximately 258 fire personnel assigned to the fire. These include eight engines from US Forest Service, Sublette County, and National Park Service. Two Type II helicopter, three Type I hand crews, four Type II hand crews, three water tenders, and various overhead. Saleen’s Type 2 Incident Management Team will transition firefighting responsibilities back to the Bridger-Teton National Forest on July 3 at 6 p.m. The Horse Creek Road is limited to all but authorized personnel. Fire rating on the BTNF is very high.

Crews will finalize mop-up and rehabilitation efforts. Most resources assigned to the fire, will be returning to their home units. The fire will be monitored and patrolled by a small contingent of firefighters from the Forest after July 3 at 6 p.m. A staffed helicopter will be available to assist firefighters in this effort.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Photo credits:  Barbara Johnson

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