Whoopup fire near Newcastle WY

Whoopup fire

UPDATE at 12:30 a.m. July 19, 2011:

WildCAD reports that the Whoopup fire southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming has burned 2,500 acres.


Tanker 07, Whoopup fire
Tanker 07 dropping in Ferguson Canyon on the Whoopup fire at 6:23 p.m., July 18, 2011. Photo: Bill Gabbert

I had the opportunity to take some photos at the Whoopup fire that started Monday morning southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming near the South Dakota/Wyoming state line. At about 4 p.m. the fire had burned an estimated 1,000 acres, according to firefighters at the scene. WildCAD shows that it was reported at 1:45 a.m. on Monday, July 18. I have not heard what the cause was, but another fire a few miles farther east was started by lightning.

The photo above shows air tanker 07, a P2V, making a drop to protect some structures in Ferguson Canyon. The lead plane kept making low passes from every direction, trying to figure out a way to get in there (and out of there) amid the smoke. Finally two air tankers showed up, 07 and 45, and following the lead plane one at a time, made it look easy.

Whoopup Fire
South end of the Whoopup fire, 4:12 p.m., July 18, 2011. Photo: Bill Gabbert

In cooperation with the fire managers, deputies from the Weston County Sheriffs office evacuated approximately 14 homes in Ferguson Canyon. When I left the area at 7:30 p.m. the fire had spotted into and across the canyon and was burning along the road at the east end of the canyon. The fire also threatened the fire lookout tower on Elk Mountain, causing the Forest Service employee there to evacuate to the USFS office in Newcastle.

Whoopup fire
The southwest side of the Whoopup fire, July 18, 2011. The area is littered with standing dead snags and fallen trees left over from the last fire in the area. Photo: Bill Gabbert
Whoopup fire
Tanker 45 dropping at the mouth of Ferguson Canyon on the Whoopup fire, 6:16 p.m., July 18, 2011. Photo: Bill Gabbert

The fire name comes from a nearby creek, Whoopup Creek, which is near the first report of the fire.

The main factors driving the fire are standing snags and fallen trees left over from a previous fire in the area, grass and herbaceous vegetation in the old burn scar, and the temperature on Monday which reached 100 degrees according to the trusty thermometer in my truck. The wind was moderate on Monday afternoon, estimated at 4-6 mph with occasional stronger gusts, mostly out of the southwest. The RAWS weather station in Red Canyon 24 miles southeast of the fire recorded a high temperature of 101 degrees at 5:00 p.m. on Monday and winds at 3-8 with gusts in the low teens. The low relative humidity was 24% — not extreme weather at all, except for the temperature.

The weather forecast for Tuesday afternoon in the area of the fire will be about the same as Monday, with a high temperature of 97, relative humidity of 24%, and winds at 5-7 out of the southwest, west, and northwest.

Whoopup fire
Tanker 45 just after a drop in Ferguson Canyon on the Whoopup fire at 7:14 p.m., July 18, 2011. The doors on the tanks are still open. Photo: Bill Gabbert

Below is a map showing the approximate location of the Whoopup fire.

Whoopup fire map, July 18, 2011
Click to enlarge. Whoopup fire map, July 18, 2011. The red squares represent heat detected by satellites, probably around early to mid-afternoon on July 18. By 7:30 p.m. the fire had spread farther to the northeast, as depicted by the red arrows. MODIS/Google/ Bill Gabbert

As shown in the map below, most of the Whoopup fire is burning in the footprint of a previous fire six to twelve years ago.

Old burn Elk Mountain
Map showing the approximate location of the Whoopup fire at mid-afternoon on July 18 (in red) and a previous fire from 6-12 years ago (in green).

Visit our home page to see more current news about the WhoopUp fire.


Update 7-26-2011: we put together a slide show of more photos.


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

34 thoughts on “Whoopup fire near Newcastle WY”

    1. 2 were treated for dehydration and the other was a local VFD member who brok his pelvis in a fall.

      1. Gilbert, I checked with the information officers at the WhoopUp fire, and they don’t know any details about the “fall related” injury.

        1. He was a local Newcastle Volunteer Fireman as am I. He fell off a type 4 about 0800 the morning the fire started. He is home but sore now.

  1. God bless the tanker pilots!!! And all firefighters!!!!! You saved my home in the Grizzly Gulch fire. Your strenth and courage are very appreciated! Confident that you’ll kick this fire in the a** !!!!!
    THANK YOU!!!!!!

  2. Nice shots! I knew I could come here and get a good write-up on it. Thanks for your efforts, Bill!

  3. Thanks for the update and photos.
    I lived through all three of the fires shown on the maps and it’s really scary! Keep up the good work and don’t become dehydrated out there!

  4. Thanks for the great coverage. It appears fortunate that this fire is burning in an area that has burned over a few times, instead of in one of the huge stands of bugkilled trees in the Hills.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful update. The maps are so helpful as to the location. Have friends near by, however you photos put the location into perspective and the fire is not as close to them as we originally feared. The tanker photos are awesome!!! Thank to the photographer, tanker pilots and all the firefighters!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Great info and pics. My son is a wildland firefighter that is there now out of South Dakota. I am very grateful I can go somewhere on line and see pics of the area and get an update. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the firefighters out there and those in the path of the fire. Be safe!!

    1. I agree. My son is also there. It’s our first season with him working as a firefighter. We appreciate seeing the fire and keeping current about what is happening. Wonderful photos!

  7. The guy that fell is a member of the Newcastle vol fire dept as am I. He fell off a type 4 the first morning of the fire and broke his pelvis. He is home now but sore. Happened about 0800 the morning the fire started.

  8. i have been watching this whole thing basically “out my back door” and it coulda approached my family and cattle at any moment and headed this way for a couple hours…firefighters are amazing! thanks to those who make that their passion! they keep us safe!

  9. Thank you for the great pictures and information! Im not home to help my dad watch the ranch due to college and work so its nice to see people working so hard to do that! Most of the burn has been on my fathers and grandfathers private and forestry lease. Sad and unforntunate this has happened again! May god bless and watch out for all the people effected and working hard.

  10. Great pics. Thanks for sharing. As Goshen County Fire Warden, I sent a Truck and Team from the Torrington Fire Department to the Whoop Up Fire. This gives me a great way to follow their activities.

  11. Fantastic photos and wonderful cover of the fire! Thankful for the people who are working so hard to battle this blaze. It is amazing to watch the planes do the drops and pray for the safety of all fighting this fire.

  12. Great photos. Since I’ve been working at the air tanker base in Pueblo I really appreciate the hard work of all involved in fighting wildland fires by air. They help with the hard work that is done on the ground. Thank you all.

  13. Bill – outstanding coverage of this fire. Thanks for the great work to bring home to folks the brave and skilful work of the men and women of the fire service. In fact, I am going to start following your site very closely since you obviously have bettter more current fire intel than I do!

  14. My father is probably on this fire. He works for state forestry taking inmate crews from the Honor Camp north of Newcastle to fight fires. God bless everyone fighting this fire.

  15. Driving past Elk Mt on US 16 at noon, 7/20. Appears to me that the fire has worked east and burned large swaths of Elk, nearly to US 16 at points.

  16. Great information. Our son is a Tatanka hotshot and we have family that ranches on the SD side of the mountain. We appreciate the photos, maps and updates! God Bless all who are fighting fire in the horrific heat!

  17. Bill, I was happy to see your name attached to these great photos and story. We’ve sent five guys down there from the North Dakota parks (so far). Any chance you can post an updated map? (I want to make sure it’s not headed toward Custer!)

  18. The top pic on this page was right over my mom’s barn. She said when heard the tanker overhead, she looked up right when the doors opened up and dropped the fire suppressant. Thanks to the air tankers and bravery of the firefighters, their house and outbuildings were saved!!! Thank you sooooo much!

  19. Thanks for the update, my daughter is one of many wildland fire fighters working this fire. Keep up the good work!! firefighters BE safe and good luck!!!!

    1. Is the fire now out? I saw it Monday afternoon from Hwy 85 apparently when it first started and posted it on FB concerned about it spreading.

      1. Here is an update from the incident management team Sunday morning:

        “By using their expertise and taking advantage of the favorable weather, firefighters were able to get the incident to the 90% containment mark. To date, an estimated 10,512 acres have been burned in Wyoming and South Dakota. The focus on the fire will now be on rehab efforts in the area.

        “We were committed to putting out this fire with zero injuries, and that was accomplished thanks to the leadership and professionalism of all folk on the team.” stated Incident Commander Joe Lowe during the morning operational briefing.

        As rehab efforts begin, transfer of command to a local Type III team is expected to take place Monday, July 25th. Also, the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team has arrived. The BAER Team assesses post-fire conditions and makes recommendations to protect our natural and cultural resources. A variety of techniques may be used such as: reseeding of ground cover, constructing straw bale dams or placing fallen trees to catch sediment on steep slopes.

        Residents should be aware that while demobilization and rehab is occurring, firefighters are still working the fire line. Please be aware of heavy vehicle traffic and smoke in the area. The community is encouraged to call the Fire Information Center with questions or concerns at (720) 219-4476. “

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