In the first 13 days since starting from a lightning strike, the Lava Mountain Fire 12 miles northwest of Dubois, Wyoming had been steadily growing, but generally not at a rapid pace. That began to change on Sunday when the rate of spread picked up significantly and it added an additional 1,200 acres for a total of 5,488 acres. On Monday it added at least that much again and according to our very rough, unofficial estimate had burned approximately 7,000 acres by 3 p.m. on Monday.
Most of the recent growth is on the south and southeast sides.
Currently, the south flank of the fire is pushing east and hooking around near the Sand Butte area. According to information released by the incident management team on July 25, “If the direction of spread continues, the fire will be lined up to be pushed by the wind towards the Union Pass road. For these reasons the following areas are in stage “GO” and should evacuate immediately: Union Pass, Warm Springs, Porcupine, and Hat Butte.”
The weather forecast for the fire area calls for strong winds Monday night, but slowing on Tuesday and Wednesday to come out of the west and southwest at 6 to 13 mph. The temperatures will be in the high 70’s and relative humidity in the teens through Wednesday.
The DeMasters Type 2 Incident Management Team released a little more information about the Cliff Creek Fire that has forced the closure of Highway 189/191, one of the highways leading to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The size is now 11,534 acres. One structure has burned.
Teton County Emergency Management issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Granite Creek area including Granite Campground, Granite Hot Springs, Jack Pine Summer Homes, and the Safari Club.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Incident Management Team state in the update, as they have before, that “The fire is being actively suppressed”, but that is not entirely true. The Bridger-Teton National Forest has directed the Team to use a “confine/contain” strategy. This means they will attempt to herd it around and put out portions of the fire edge as it becomes necessary. But the objective is not to fully suppress the fire. They are no doubt “actively suppressing” some sections of the fire where it endangers private property and structures, but “confine/contain” usually refers to allowing some areas of a fire to spread unconstrained. They may decide to allow the fire to advance unfettered to the east and northeast into the higher elevations above 9,000 feet where it will begin to run out of fuel.
It was no accident that the “actively suppressing” language was chosen for the press release. The U.S. Forest Service should not issue intentionally misleading information to the public.
(UPDATED at 7:53 a.m. MDT July 22, 2016)
As the Cliff Creek Fire burns into its sixth day the U.S. Forest Service and DeMasters’ Type 2 Incident Management Team are not releasing much information about the fire which has closed for several days Highway 191, a major highway leading to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The fire 12 air miles southeast of Hoback, Wyoming is not being totally suppressed, but is a “confine/contain” fire, which means they will attempt to herd it around and put out portions of the fire edge as it becomes necessary.
Crook County Fire & Emergency Management reported Thursday afternoon that the Browning Fire has been mapped at 875 acres.
The photos below were supplied by Crook County Fire and Emergency Management.
(UPDATED at 1:10 p.m. MDT July 7, 2016)
A local resident told us that smoke from the Browning Fire northwest of Upton, Wyoming can be seen from Spearfish, South Dakota and Newcastle, Wyoming.
The weather forecast for the fire area will not be helpful to firefighters on Thursday. It predicts northwest winds at 16 mph gusting at 23 mph, relative humidity in the low 20s, and temperature in the mid-70s. On Friday it should be warmer but less windy, with the RH dipping into the high teens.
(Originally published at 10:34 a.m. MDT July 7, 2016)
More lightning poured through northeastern Wyoming and the Black Hills Wednesday afternoon. After it passed the Browning Fire and another fire were discovered 7 miles west of Inya Kara and 9 miles northeast of Upton, Wyoming. The two fires merged.
Crook County Fire and Emergency Management reports it has burned 600 to 800 acres and has required evacuations, but no structures have been destroyed.
The fire is about 3 miles south of the Douglas Fire that burned about 1,700 acres a couple of weeks ago. Both the Douglas Fire and the 12,000-acre Kara Creek Fire that burned at about the same time are contained.
On Wednesday a helicopter assisted firefighters by dropping water and it will be available on Thursday as well.
Above: Air Tanker 161, an RJ85, drops on the north side of the Crow Peak Fire at 4:56 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
(UPDATED at 9:20 a.m. MDT June 30, 2016)
As the 1,350-acre Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota enters its seventh day firefighters will begin firing operations Thursday morning on the southwest and northeast sides. Local residents will see an increase in fire activity as the unburned fuels are removed between the main fire and the prepped lines firefighters have been working on in recent days.
The Incident Management Team reports that structure protection is in place for all structures in the vicinity of the firing operations, and air resources will be used as needed.
Voluntary and pre-evacuation notifications remain in effect along Crow Peak Bench Road. Voluntary evacuation notices were made along Crow Creek Road.
(UPDATED at 5:34 p.m. MDT June 28, 2016)
The Incident Management Team on the Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish, South Dakota reported that a Monday night flight by a heat-sensing fixed wing aircraft determined that the fire has burned 943 acres.
In addition to the large air tankers that have been flying out of Rapid City Regional Airport assisting firefighters on the Crow Peak Fire, four single engine air tankers (SEATs) have been working out of the permanent SEAT base at the Gillette, Wyoming airport (map). It is our understanding that the equipment at the base was given to Campbell County Fire by Weston County to assist in suppressing fires in northeast Wyoming, southeast Montana, northwest South Dakota, and southwest North Dakota.
(UPDATED at 10:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2016)
The Crow Peak Fire was actively backing down the steep slopes of Crow Peak again on Monday. We were 21 miles away in Sturgis at 3:15 when it put up a convection column for a while (scroll down to see the photo). Later we got closer and grabbed a few photos.
At 4 p.m. on Monday the Incident Management Team estimated the size at 1,000 acres. They explained that the increase in smoke was due to interior burning on the southern portion of the fire. Firefighters are continuing burning operations on the north side.
The air tanker photo above was taken on the north side of the fire. The aircraft may have been supporting a burnout.
From a distance we saw several air tanker drops by P2V and RJ85 tankers, but only got decent photos of Tanker 161, an RJ85. At one point on Monday there were four air tankers working out of Rapid City Tanker Base. By the end of the day one had been sent to a fire near Billings, one was relocated somewhere else, and another was down for maintenance.
(UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. MDT June 27, 2017)
As you can see from this quick cell phone picture above taken from Sturgis (21 miles away), the Crow Peak fire was pretty active at 3:15 p.m. today.
(UPDATED at 7:55 a.m. MDT June 27, 2016)
Evacuations remain in effect as the 313-acre Crow Peak Fire burns into its fourth day about four miles southwest of Spearfish, South Dakota. As the fire backs down the steep slopes of Crow Peak, large helicopters and air tankers are assisting the 135 firefighters on the ground.
(Originally published at 10:12 MDT June 26, 2016; Douglas fire updated at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016))
Firefighters are suppressing four wildfires in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, ranging from 64 to 5,000 acres.
Kara Creek: 5,000 acres 4 miles east of Keyhole Reservoir, 15 miles west of Sundance, Wyoming, and about 3 miles north of Interstate 90. Before the fire was reported Friday evening a lightning storm accompanied by very strong winds hit the area. Air tankers, Type 1 hand crews, and Type 2IA hand crews have been ordered.
A resident of Upton, Wyoming told us that the clouds were generating rain but it evaporated before hitting the ground. They said the fire was putting up a large amount of smoke Friday evening.
Douglas: 1,785 acres; it started Thursday 10 miles southwest of Sundance, Wyoming and is being managed by a Type 3 incident management team. On Friday the fire was most active on the southwest side where, according to the Rapid City Journal, new evacuations were ordered. More information is in our earlier article about the Douglas Fire, and we have a gallery of photos here.
(UPDATE for the Douglas Fire at 2:10 p.m. MDT June 25, 2016)
At about 11 a.m. today fire officials for the Douglas Fire released this information:
The Douglas Fire saw growth early in the day yesterday but stabilized as the day went on. The fire is estimated at 2000 acres and is now contained.
Incident Command of the Douglas Fire shifted to Type 4 Incident Commander Dallas Roth this morning. Four fire engines and one handcrew will remain on the Douglas Fire to ensure the fire stays contained.
The evacuation of Sundance Canyon Ranch subdivision has been lifted.
Rapid Creek: 1,000 acres. It was reported Friday afternoon near the intersection of 158th Avenue and East Highway 44, 24 miles southeast of Rapid City in the Farmingdale area. The heat-sensing satellites did not detect any heat overnight from this fire, which may indicate that it burned in light fuels, such as grass, and was relatively cool during the subsequent overflight.
Crow Peak: 64 acres, 5 miles west of Spearfish, SD. A Type 3 incident management team has been ordered. Great Plains dispatch office reported that firefighters were pulled off the fire Friday night due to the passage of a cold front bringing strong winds. The fire was reported Friday afternoon.
Above: smoke from the Douglas Fire. Photo by Ryan Cutter.
This gallery of photos of the Douglas Fire southwest of Sundance, Wyoming consists of pictures taken on June 22 and 23, 2016.
As noted in the captions, the photos were taken by Ryan Cutter of Classic Helicopters, and a resident who eventually had to evacuate, Kathy Loveland. The images by Bill Gabbert are identified by a watermark in the bottom-left corner.