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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fire making run up Wilson Canyon

By Jim Stanford on September 9, 2012

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Update 6:10 p.m.: The fire has reached the ridge atop the Cache Creek drainage, approximately 2 miles from the trailhead. Fire managers are warning residents of the Snow King area to be prepared to implement an evacuation plan Monday.

For more recent updates, see the comments.

A crowd gathers on the butte above Nelson Drive to watch the Little Horsethief Fire as it burns behind Snow King. Several times flames were visible on the ridge atop Cache Creek, but the fire never encroached down the canyon.

As afternoon winds have picked up, the Little Horsethief Fire is burning in Wilson Canyon behind Snow King, giving residents of east Jackson a close-up view of the fight.

A 100-acre spot fire ahead of the main blaze has sent a huge plume of smoke above the ridge separating Cache Creek from Game Creek. But the main fire is still 1 to 1.5 miles from Snow King, a county spokeswoman said.

Residents are out in the streets, watching the smoke billow over Cache. Tankers have been making passes as they head toward Wilson Canyon to drop retardant.

Charlotte Reynolds, Teton County information officer, said there is no reason to panic. East Jackson is “not in imminent danger at this time,” she said.

But one man on Willow Street was packing his truck for a possible evacuation, saying he is taking no chances. The man said he is from Colorado Springs, where a fire torched hundreds of homes in June.

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Snow King, Cache closed; high winds feared

By Jim Stanford on September 9, 2012

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Updated 2:15 p.m. with closure map, after jump

The Little Horsethief Fire, as seen last night from south of town.

Despite an intensive effort by firefighters, the Little Horsethief Fire continues to burn south of Jackson, and with high winds expected today, the Bridger-Teton National Forest has closed trails around Snow King and Cache Creek.

The fire had burned 750 acres as of this morning, according to the interagency incident page. Despite drops of water and flame retardant by tankers and helicopters, it was only 10 percent contained as of 10 p.m. last night. The fire is moving north and northeast.

One Teton County fire engine was destroyed last night while refueling when an ember landed on spilled gasoline. Firefighters ran and escaped without injury.

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