By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune. Photo by Leslie Patten.
On Wednesday, crews were working to combat a pair of small wildfires that broke out in the Shoshone National Forest — one in Sunlight Basin and another along the Beartooth Highway in the area of Crazy Creek. Fire managers say both were started by lightning.
The Painter Creek Fire started Monday night and was estimated at roughly 2 acres on Wednesday, burning in timber on the east side of Windy Mountain. The mountain sits south of hundreds of acres of private property, including multiple ranches, within the Sunlight area of the Shoshone.
Firefighters were also looking to snuff out the Crazy Creek Fire, which was detected Tuesday evening east of the Crazy Creek Campground. It, too, was estimated at about 2 acres and fire managers said it’s not posing a threat to any structures.
“Resources from the Painter Fire were reassigned to the new fire [at Crazy Creek] and were quickly able to stop any further fire growth just before dark,” Shoshone officials said.
Three helicopters (one light, one medium and one heavy) have responded to both fires, with 16 smokejumpers working the Painter fire and a contracted 20-person crew and local Shoshone resources on the Crazy Creek Fire.
Kristie Salzmann, a spokeswoman for the Shoshone, said Tuesday that firefighters have been working to put out new fires “as quickly as possible.”
“In this unique year that we are in, we’re trying to keep fire camps small or non-existent,” Salzmann added, referring to COVID-19-related precautions. “So we are hitting fires with as much aerial resources — whether it be water or retardant, depending on the situation — to try and extinguish fires as soon as possible.”
Conditions have become increasingly dry in Wyoming in recent weeks, with officials in neighboring Yellowstone National Park implementing backcountry fire restrictions on Friday amid “very high” fire danger.
The Lone Star Fire, burning about 3 miles south of Old Faithful, had grown to more than 820 acres by Wednesday morning, with 38 personnel assigned to the fire. It was 0% contained, but has been spreading to the northeast and away from Old Faithful, park officials say.
Both the Old Faithful area and the West Thumb Geyser Basin remain fully open — along with all five park entrances. However, the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction remains closed due to the road’s “proximity to fire, impacts from smoke and increased fire traffic,” park officials said Tuesday. That’s requiring some visitors to make detours when traveling through Yellowstone.
Also on Tuesday, Bighorn National Forest officials announced that the Freeze Out Fire — located near Freeze Out Point on the northeastern side of the forest — has been fully contained after burning through 10 acres.
“No injuries were reported, and fire personnel are thankful for logistical support from local businesses,” said Sara Evans Kirol, a spokeswoman for the Bighorn Forest.
Lightning had started that fire around Aug. 19 and led to the temporary closure of the area surrounding the wildfire.
Yellowstone officials noted Tuesday that “fire activity in the western United States has created smoky conditions throughout the region” and that the country is currently in Preparedness Level 5 — “the highest level of fire activity and demand for resources.”
“All residents and visitors can assist fire efforts by strictly following any fire restrictions to reduce the potential of additional starts,” park officials said.