after the burn

By Jim Stanford on August 8, 2013

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A cyclist descends the West Game Creek trail through an area of forest scorched by the Little Horsethief Fire. Photo by Brenton Reagan

Eleven months after the Little Horsethief Fire burned the back of Snow King, nature is rejuvenating itself.

Twice this summer I’ve been fortunate to ride with friends the newly improved West Game Creek trail that descends from the top of the mountain.

The first trip, back in early July, revealed a moonscape of burned-out trees and soot on the ground. Thanks to the efforts of the Forest Service and volunteers, the trail was in surprisingly good shape. Lupine and other wildflowers were blooming in places.

I returned last weekend to find fields of fireweed in the burned areas. Beyond the pink blossoms stood perfect stands of high grass. A hum was audible: bumble bees buzzing through the forest.

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Snow King, Cache trails to reopen as fire fizzles

By Jim Stanford on September 21, 2012

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Flames consume a tree as firefighters set a back burn to contain the Little Horsethief Fire on Sept. 12. (Photo by Mike Johnston/USFS)

With the Little Horsethief Fire more than 90 percent contained, the Bridger-Teton National Forest has lifted the closure for Snow King and Cache Creek trails.

The Putt-Putt, Ferrin’s and Hagen trails will open up Cache Creek, and hikers and bikers may reach the Snow King summit via the main resort trail or Josie’s Ridge. Crystal Butte and Nowlin Peak also will reopen. The Elk Refuge Road has reopened to all traffic.

The cost of suppressing the fire has reached $7.9 million. Nearly two weeks after the fire began, allegedly in a backyard at the mouth of Wilson Canyon, investigators have not identified the cause.

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fire impacting trails; cost at $2.8 million

By Jim Stanford on September 14, 2012

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Update 9/19: The cost of fire suppression has risen to $7.1 million.

A crew battles the Little Horsethief Fire earlier this week south of Jackson.

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.

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firefighters holding line on blaze

By Jim Stanford on September 11, 2012

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Update 9/12: Frost on the roofs today, likely aiding firefighters’ effort. The evacuation advisory area has been reduced.

The Little Horsethief Fire simmers for a fourth day behind Snow King, and although many residents are prepared for an evacuation, they are breathing a little easier as crews have kept the flames in check.

The blaze has covered 2,700 acres. In all, 171 personnel are taking part in the firefighting effort, including 70 who spent the night on Josie’s Ridge to prevent flames from advancing toward the west side of Snow King. The News&Guide reports that the cost already has topped $1 million.

A Forest Service firefighter from Jackson said this morning that crews are well entrenched and, barring extreme winds, the mood is confident.

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here’s where fire appears to have started

By Jim Stanford on September 10, 2012

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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.

Charred areas of grass and sage lead to this backyard in the Little Horsethief subdivision south of town. Cops say the fire originated in a barrel or drum during an illegal burn. Click to enlarge.

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.

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