By Jim Stanford on September 10, 2012
Update 5:30 p.m.: “Unless conditions deteriorate significantly, there will not be an evacuation tonight.” Hurray! Every flare-up on the ridge quenched quickly.
Update 4:30 p.m.: Crews appear to have the upper hand. No flames on ridge, smoke diminishing.
Update 3:10 p.m.: Flames have begun to crest Snow King again up Cache Creek, closer to town than last night, but a slurry bomber just doused the ridge with retardant. The battle rages over east Jackson.
Authorities have confirmed that the Little Horsethief Fire, which ignited Saturday and has burned more than 2,000 acres around Jackson, was started by an illegal burn at a residence south of town.
The charring emanates from a property at the mouth of Wilson Canyon, adjacent to Bridger-Teton National Forest. County records show it belongs to James Anderson III of Jackson. Anderson has not responded to a phone message left this morning.
Police Chief Todd Smith said the fire started near a residence and was “intended to be a controlled burn.” A fire ban was in effect at the time.
Violating the fire ban is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $750 and six months in jail. The Teton County fire marshal is heading the investigation and likely will submit a report to the county attorney.
Meanwhile, residents of east Jackson, particularly those who live on Snow King Mountain, nervously are watching the hillsides around Cache Creek as the blaze smolders and winds have begun picking up.
I’ve fielded inquiries from near and far regarding the level of danger in east Jackson. So far there does not appear to be much to worry about; the evacuation advisory was intended as a precaution. We won’t know till later this afternoon, after winds whip up the fire, how much it will spread near Cache Creek.
South of town, spot fires continue to burn on the mountainsides around Wilson Canyon, even south of the apparent ignition point. The flare-ups likely will keep crews busy for days.
Just north of the Little Horsethief neighborhood, visible from Highway 89, the hillside is stained red from drops of flame retardant. Up Wilson Canyon, the fire did not burn everything in its path, but torched areas of grass, sage and trees. Smoke continues to rise from numerous points around the canyon.
Fire managers are holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. today at Davey Jackson Elementary to field questions and give residents an overview of the blaze.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the sheriff was heading the investigation; that duty falls to the fire marshal. Also, Police Chief Smith said he did not know if the fire started in some sort of barrel or drum, but it was intended to be a controlled burn.