From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 26 - June 28, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Area fires active

by Alecia Warren

Smoke still blotted the Pinedale sky Wednesday from the growing Horse Creek fire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest eight miles west of Merna.

The fire, which started on June 21, was still actively blazing, despite firefighters’ predictions that the flames would be contained early in the week, and had burned 3,001 acres.

The fire had also moved southwest with significant increases around the Pass Creek drainage, said Mary Cernicek, spokesperson for the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Personnel fighting the flames increased to 295, and included eight crews, three helicopters, 11 engines and two dozers. Firefighters predict the fire will be contained by July 2, and put out by July 10.

The private Hirsch residence is threatened by the fire, but a fire protection crew has been assigned to watch over the property. “I think (the personnel) are surprised at the intensity of the burning so early in the year,” said fire information officer Linda Steinhaus. A fire this “hot and heavy” is more common in August weather conditions. “In June, if there was normal snow pack, it would be a lot easier to control, but the conditions now are so dry and hot.”

The rest of the Bridger-Teton National Forest has equally sensitive fire conditions, she said, so the forest service urges people to be careful with campfires and car ignitions. “If anyone started a spark anywhere, it could start running right now,” Steinhaus said. “We have enough people to manage it, but we’d rather not go there.”

The flames could threaten roads to the north and south of Horse Creek, depending on the direction of the wind. If the flames turn toward either road, firefighters will implement burn out operations, which involve setting fire inside a control line to consume fuel between the edge of the control line and the fire.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Lightning triggered another fire in the Shoshone National Forest on Monday in the Houlihan Creek drainage along the South Fork of the Shoshone River, about 25 miles southwest of Cody. Dry, windy conditions spurred the flames of the dubbed Citadel Fire to burn 371 acres by Wednesday.

Although the blaze wasn’t active enough to produce much smoke early in the week, said Marty Sharp, spokesperson for Shoshone National Forest, thunderstorm predictions for Wednesday evening were likely to produce more active burning. “Conditions are really crying for fire growth,” Sharp said.

Crews fighting the blaze around the Houlihan Creek area increased to 120 on Wednesday, with three helicopters dumping water.

The location of the fire is a “rough, remote area” that’s “hard to get out of,” Sharp said, which impedes crews’ abilities to battle the flames. By Wednesday, firefighters had either hiked to the area or been carried there by helicopter, but crews were making plans to create “spike camps” near the fire so they could sleep there overnight, instead of trekking back to the base camp at the Bobcat trailhead three miles away from the flames. The Citadel fire hadn’t threatened any structures as of Wednesday, but public access has been closed around the area of the fire.

“If the fire blows up, we don’t want to have people on trails or camped in back,” Sharp said.

The Nylander fire that started Saturday and blazed 25 miles west of Daniel was put out on Monday, Cernicek said, and only burned four acres.

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