By Jim Stanford on September 14, 2012
Update 9/19: The cost of fire suppression has risen to $7.1 million.
As the Little Horsethief Fire burns for a seventh day behind Snow King Mountain, the total number of personnel combating the blaze has swelled to nearly 600, and the cost has exceeded $2.8 million. The fire has burned 3,300 acres.
Bewilderingly, residents continue to set illegal burns. During last night’s community meeting, Sheriff Jim Whalen announced that an illegal burn had just been reported up Game Creek. A deputy was dispatched to cite the offender, the sheriff said.
Fire managers expect a little more activity from the blaze today, with breezes from the south and southwest. But efforts are focused on the southern flank above Game Creek; on the northern flank near Cache Creek, crews are mopping up and securing the control line.
Besides the obvious concern for homes in the vicinity of the blaze, residents have asked how the fire is affecting trails. The greater Snow King area, including Cache and Game creeks, is one of the most heavily used recreation areas in Wyoming, especially for hiking and mountain biking. Hunters and equestrians use the area as well. With 43 engines and two bulldozers assisting firefighting crews, there has been a significant impact on these trails.
Friends of Pathways issued the following update:
Linda Merigliano, the BTNF Trails Program Manger, said that the fire has impacted trails in Wilson Canyon, from lower Wilson Canyon where the fire started, through the 5-way area of Wilson Canyon up to just below Ferrins saddle, but that Ferrins saddle has not been impacted. Also, West Game Creek trail was substantially burned over.
Addiitionally, suppression work done in protecting Snow King and the Town has included the construction of bulldozer lines that have impacted trails in the Cache Creek drainage/Hagen area. The Skyline Ridge area has seen heavy fire and fire suppression activity, as well. Leeks Canyon was improved to allow for access of heavy fire fighting equipment into Wilson Canyon and has also had ‘dozer lines added to the area.
… Preliminary rehabilitation plans are already in the works and the BTNF hopes to get a good jump on trail rehab work before the snow flies. However Linda estimates that rehabiliation work will last well into next year. The rehabilitation plan will address the effects of the fire and the suppression effort (‘dozer lines) on the trails, the prevention of erosion and evasive weeds in the affected areas, as well as improved drainage and dead tree harvesting.
As of Wednesday, Merigliano said it was still too early for the Bridger-Teton National Forest to estimate when the emergency closure might be lifted. The agency is trying to establish “trigger points” that could allow for trails to reopen, FoP reported. Merigliano advised hikers and cyclists to check out other areas of the Bridger-Teton in the meantime.
(Photo by Sargent Schutt)