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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faces of the firefight

By Jim Stanford on October 3, 2012

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Nick Miller of Swan Valley Helitack.

With the arrival today of wintry weather, the Little Horsethief Fire is becoming a distant memory (except for those left footing the bill).

After preparing to evacuate his home in the heat of the fight last month, photographer Taylor Glenn decided to document some of the crews working to protect Jackson. Like he has done in the past with end-of-ski-season antics, Glenn shot portraits of the firefighters. He captured about 90 in all and has posted a gallery on his blog, It’s What We Do Here.

In the men and women who made up the firefighter teams, some 700 in all from Teton County and around the West, he found “real life heroes.” He writes:

These folks are extremely dedicated and very humble. … It was a great experience to meet them and learn about their occupations. It takes a tremendous amount of team work across many organizations to manage an incident.

Also, as Glenn’s photos attest, firefighters have great facial hair.

For anyone looking to support Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, there will be two events in the coming weeks to help replace the engine lost in the Horsethief blaze: a BBQ dinner Oct. 13 at the Elks Lodge and the annual Fireman’s Ball on Nov. 17.

And Friends of Pathways and Teton Freedom Riders have organized a volunteer day Saturday to repair Snow King-area trails affected by the fire.

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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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