From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 17 - July 19, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Human-caused fire sparks north of The Place
Salt Lick Fire burns more than 2,500 acres with 47 percent contained by Tuesday
by Janet Montgomery

Another fire sparked in Sublette County last week igniting on Wednesday, July 11, afternoon roughly 31 miles north west of Pinedale, but by Monday, mop-up efforts were initiated on the blaze that reached 2,582 acres with full containment expected by Thursday, July 19.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) released that the “human-caused” Salt Lick fire was 47-percent contained as of Monday.

Several hours after the spark on July 11, the fire had spread to more than 1,000 acres in an area about five miles southwest of the Green River Lakes, according to the BTNF. By 9 p.m., the Salt Lick Fire was estimated at more than 2,000 acres, leading officials to strongly recommended evacuations of the Red Cliff Bible Camp as well as 30 homes at the junction of Highway 352 and Forest Road 680, known as the Red Hills Area.

The blaze had been fueled by thick lodge-pole pine and deadfall as the area is full of beetle-killed trees.

East Zone Fire Management Officer for the Bridger-Teton Paul Hutta headed the fire team as the incident commander with two interagency fire engines along with five Sublette County fire apparatus. A helicopter was also brought to the aid of the firefighters.

The fire was reportedly calmer through the night, maintaining its 2,000-acre size by the morning. Roads were closed due to the fire.

Even though the fire was calm through the night, a Type 2 incident management team was ordered to assist in controlling the fire and was scheduled for a briefing at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 12, before assuming control on July 13.

But on that Thursday, fire efforts were forced to concentrate on the Pole Fire just north of the town that threatened homes and led to evacuations in several subdivisions.

After the Pole Fire was brought under control Thursday night with fire efforts and some rainfall, the Salt Lick Fire came back on the front burner.

According to a release, firefighters took advantage of decreased fire intensity to make progress fighting the Salt Lick Fire.

“The rain has definitely put a damper on this fire for the time being,” said Brad Washa, operations section chief for the Type II Incident Management Team, Saturday. “But it’s still early in the fire season and the rain hasn’t put the fire out. It will help with the suppression efforts, but it’s still possible for this fire to continue burning into the Bridger Wilderness over the next few weeks.”

An estimated 312 firefighters and other personnel were fighting the 2,582-acre Salt Lick Fire with four helicopters to contain about 19 percent of it by Saturday evening.

Monday, the fire was estimated at 47-percent contained with one of the closed roads (Forest Road 680) opened all the way through, while others remained closed to traffic.

Firefighters also began mop up Monday, which means “crews are finding and extinguishing every remaining hotspot or smoke they can find all along and up to 200 feet inside the fire line.”

Tuesday, the Web site listed the fire behavior as “isolated torching with creeping and smoldering” with the fire area receiving 0.10 inches of rain Monday night, moderating its behavior.

About 164 fire personnel remain on the Salt Lick Fire, which was 80-percent contained by 6 p.m. on July 17.

According to the BTNF, the number of firefighters will continue to shrink from the once estimated 420 to 164 as Suwyn’s Type II Incident Management Team closes out its service and hands the fire over to the local district Wednesday afternoon.

While the immediate danger from the fire is gone, BTNF officials warn that the fire season is still very young.

“Hot, dry, windy weather could try to breathe life back into this fire, producing smokes, as well as increasing the danger of new fires throughout the area,” according to the release. Fire danger is still considered extreme for the BTNF and burning restrictions remain in place.

The BTNF also asks that residents help with fire detection by calling in any new smoke they see.

The cause of the Salt Lick Fire is under investigation, but July 19 remains the anticipated containment date for fire.

Fire danger for the BTNF remains extreme, and fire restrictions are in place.

While wildfires are most often perceived as dangerous and destructive, they can also be productive, as is the case with the Salt Lick Fire.

According to the BTNF: “The Salt Lick Fire has left the area with many benefits. The removal of beetle-killed trees and the thinning of the lodge-pole pine stands will help to reduce the beetle infestation and fire danger in the future.”

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