News Bulletin, 3:50 p.m.: Evacuation trigger set
September 10, 2012
A map of the areas included in the Town of Jackson's fire evacuation advisory can be found here.
A trigger for the evacuation of east Jackson would be any spot fire within a mile of a structure, Jackson Police Lt. Bob Gilliam said.
He made his comments as an aerial attack with helicopters and slurry bombers continued on the Little Horsethief wildfire. Flames from the blaze have been seen on the ridge south of Cache Creek east of Jackson.
Jackson/Teton County Fire/EMS Chief Willy Watsabaugh will decide whether to order an evacuation, Gillaim said. Watsabaugh will evaluate every two hours.
No order is expected before 6 p.m., according to emergency radio traffic, however residents should be prepared for any contingency. If there must be an evacuation, emergency personnel want it to happen during daylight, Gilliam said.
“This is still a very fluid situation, and [it] is likely to change,” he said. “We are in a holding pattern in two-hour increments.
“It’s going to be a hurry-up-and-wait situation a little, but we can make good use of the time,” Gilliam said.
Officers are hoping to get as many people as possible signed up for Nixle updates, because it would be faster than waiting for a personal visit from an officer. There would be no notification via reverse 911 since the system is not operational, Teton County Shereiff’s Office Communications Manager Alyssa Watkins said.
Police Sgt. Cole Nethercott was in neighborhoods warning residents.
“You’re only going to get one trip out,” he said. “Once you leave, you will not be allowed back in.”
Residents who evacuate should not turn off natural gas, officials said. A door hanger left by officials in east Jackson said to turn off gas, but an emergency broadcast said that hanger contained a misprint.
News Bulletin: 3 p.m. fire update
As winds picked up Monday afternoon, fire crews in the Upper Cache Creek Drive and Snow King Drive areas surveyed buildings at risk and put fire trucks and other resources in place where necessary.
Winds gusted up to 26 mph, the National Weather Service reported at 2:40 p.m. A slurry bomber, a large firefighting helicopter and a spotter plane circled the Little Horsethief wildfire.
The fire has burned at least 2,040 acres and is being fought with three helicopters, eight engines, two crews — which are typically 20 firefighters each — and one bulldozer. One firefighting truck was burned Saturday night.
A total of 112 persons are engaged in the battle, the U.S. Forest Service incident command said at its Inciweb site for the blaze.
An evacuation advisory remains in effect for east Jackson south of Broadway and east of Redmond, including the Vine Street-Snow King area. No evacuation order has been given.
Residents are asked to not soak their property, as this lowers water pressure, hampering fire response capabilities.
Among those who are ready to leave is Jenny Ryan, a Jackson resident since 1978. She packed her suitcases this morning with irreplaceable items, like old photos and clothing. That the fire might spread is not her chief concern, the Hansen Street resident said.
Her husband, John Ryan, is a retired firefighter.
“I’m not so worried, really, about the fire,” Jenny Ryan said. “I’m worried about the ash.”
She said she is worried wind will carry flaming debris to other areas.
News Builletin: 12:28 p.m.: Community meeting set
A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Davey Jackson Elementary School. Representatives of the crews fighting the Little Horsethief Fire will be on hand to answer questions. Also, an information center is being set up, Bridger-Teton National Forest public affairs officer Mary Cernicek said, and details on its location will be provided soon.
News Bulletin 11:35 a.m. fire update
Jackson/Teton County Fire Marshal Kathy Clay called the Little Horsthief Canyon wildfire “pretty volatile” and said weather is key to its behavior.
She made her comments at a meeting of emergency managers and officials in Town Hall. Precipitation wet Jackson streets this morning.
“The rain has probably given us a little more time,” she said. “All the same, we need to watch the weather and keep our heads up. The future of this fire likely depends on the weather.”
Police Lt. Bob Gilliam assigned groups of officers to the evacuation advisory area, including the Vine Street-Kelly Street area and Snow King Resort. No evacuation has been ordered but residents in the area have been asked to prepare.
County officials said they have been in contact with staffers in Gov. Matt Mead’s office.
“The governor’s office is on alert that this is going on,” County Commission Chairman Ben Ellis said. “They may be in a position to declare a disaster if we ask them to do so.”
Making that declaration would allow emergency officials to tap into some resources from the National Guard, Ellis said.
County officials signed over incident command to the U.S. Forest Service at 6 a.m. today. However, they still are trying to figure out how they’ll deal with potential issues, such as housing evacuated residents, closing roads and allocating resources, such as staff members and equipment.
“There are policy and resource questions that the community faces,” Ellis said. “What is the right number of engines? Where should we put them?
“We have about 150 beds and there potentially are up to 3,000 people that could be evacuated,” he said.
An incident command center is being set up at the Stilson parking lot just west of the Snake River along Highway 22. Workers were assembling a mess hall, portable showers and food and coffee were being offered in a 60-foot long tent.
American Red Cross workers are setting up the gym at the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center as an information site for residents who might be evacuated today, Parks and Recreation Center Director Steve Ashworth said. If there’s an evacuation, Red Cross workers would help direct residents to shelters, Ashworth said.
“They’re trying to set that up as a clearing house of information,” he told county commissioners at roughly 10 a.m.
News Bulletin 10:10 a.m. fire update
Friends are stepping in to help others in the Jackson evacuation advisory area of the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire south of Broadway and east of Redmond.
Residents are being advised to prepare for an evacuation order, although none has been given.
Tim Dykema, 48, drove from Melody Ranch to his sister’s house on Cache Creek Drive to pick up her two dogs. His sister, Anna Hayworth, is out of town for the week, he said.
“That’s all she cares about,” Dykema said of the dogs. He grabbed a few files from the house and attached his sister’s trailer to his truck.
“I think there’s about the appropriate amount of being worried,” he said of the community’s reaction to the fire. “I’m not a firefighter — I don’t have a clue” of whether the flames will reach east Jackson, he said.
“If they tell us to pull stuff, we’re going to pull stuff,” he said.
At Davey Jackson Elementary School, administrators are still waiting for orders. School is in session but the school is not in the evacuation advisory area.
In the event of an evacuation, students will be bused to Jackson Hole Middle School and parents will be alerted to pick up their children there, Assistant Principal Tom Radkey said.
News Bulletin 9:50 a.m. fire update
At Bar T 5, a chuckwagon concession that runs out of east Jackson, operators have an evacuation plan but are not yet implementing it.
The operation takes tourists into Cache Creek Canyon for cookouts. Bar T 5 uses numerous horses to pull covered wagons to the site, and horses are corralled near the mouth of the canyon at the concession headquarters.
“We’re in a holding pattern," Chris Warburton, co-owner, said. “They’ll be fine,” he said of the horses. “We always have a plan.”
Bar T 5 is in an evacuation advisory area for the Little Horsethief wildfire. Residents have been asked to make plans should an evacuation order be given.
Hansen Street residents Jeff an Alicia Cox woke up to an alert this morning from emergency managers. They have a car packed.
“Mostly we’re bringing our [outdoor] gear” should they receive an evacuation order, Jeff Cox said. “We also wanted to bring our wedding pictures, things like that.”
The couple have renters’ insurance and a dog who is “looking a little worried,” Alicia Cox said. Her co-workers at the Clean Energy Coalition told her to stay home until things get sorted out, she said.
News Bulletin 9:23 a.m. fire update
Davey Jackson Elementary School remains in session but buses are on standby in case there is a need to move children, Teton County Schools Superintendent Pam Shea said.
The school is not in the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire evacuation advisory area east of Redmond and south of Broadway. Plans are in the works nevertheless.
The school district is working on establishing a shelter at Jackson Hole High School should residents be evacuated from parts of town, she said.
At Pioneer Homestead, an apartment complex for senior citizens, board member Ray Elser said he was telling residents, “It might not be bad to organize some stuff, but I don’t want you panicking,” he told a reporter.
He was at the complex while its manager was out of town, he said. One resident at Pioneer Homestead is in a wheelchair, and two are on oxygen.
Homestead resident Ellen Starcevic, 77, who works at the Great Harvest sandwich shop, is taking the emergency in stride.
“I wasn’t too worried, and I guess I’m still not,” she said. “They’ll come and get me when it’s time to leave.”
News Bulletin 8:50 a.m. fire update
East Jackson residents are packing and loading vehicles in the case of an evacuation order because of the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire.
Zac Rosser has two cars packed with his belongings and is ready to leave the neighborhood and his home should the order come, he said Monday morning.
He woke to find ash on his car from the wildfire burning above Cache Creek.
“Last night was pretty eerie watching the red glow over the hill,” Rosser said. “I was on line till one in the morning telling everyone back East I’m OK.
“I’m not really one to leave until I see flames in my backyard,” he said.
At Pioneer Homestead, there are 80 residents in three buildings. Police officers are telling managers there will be a START bus provided to the complex in the event of an evacuation.
Residents would be taken to the Jackson/Teton County Rec Center.
A few people have suitcases in their cars, but nobody is outside the building.
News Bulletin 8:36 a.m. fire update
The director of the Senior Center in east Jackson is ready to help residents of Pioneer Homestead evacuate in case an order comes to leave because of the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire.
“We are waiting to see what happens, but we are ready to help any of our clients or anyone who asks us for help evacuating,” senior center Director Becky Zaist said.
“People have been calling all morning, unsure what to do," she said, "but at this point, no one at nearby Pioneer Homestead has asked for help.”
The center is planning to serve lunch but may cancel other social programs.
“There are some people at Pioneer Homestead who would have difficulty leaving in a hurry,” she said. “We do have some people with respiratory issues around here who should probably not be in the smoke.
“We also have people who don’t have family here to help them,” she said. “But at this point we don’t know anywhere they can go.”
It was quiet and still at Pioneer Homestead with a few lights on.
News Bulletin 8:15 a.m. fire update
Light rain started falling in east Jackson shortly after flames from the Little Horsthief Canyon wildfire could be seen from town.
The flames were on the ridge south of Cache Creek.
Thunder boomed as a dark storm cell moved over Jackson.
WYDOT will wait for an evacuation order before it stops construction on Highway 89 north of town. An evacuation advisory has been issued for south of Broadway and east of Redmond in Jackson.
“We’re planning to start paving this week,” WYDOT resident engineer Bob Hammond said. “If there is an evacuation order, we’ll make sure traffic gets through.”
Emergency managers at just after 7a.m. Monday issued an evacuation advisory for those living south of Broadway and east of Redmond due to the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire.
An advisory means residents in the area must make preparations for a potential evacuation order. The fire Sunday night crested the ridge south of Cache Creek two miles southeast of the Cache Creek trailhead.
“Residents in this area that may have mobility issues, special needs, or livestock/pets need to consider voluntarily evacuating at this time,” the advisory said. Persons leaving for work should be aware that if an evacuation is ordered while they are away, they would not be allowed to return, the advisory said.
Residents should take pets, important papers and irreplaceable items when they leave home for the day.
Weather forecasters issued a red flag warning for the Little Horsethief Canyon wildfire for today, calling attention to “critical fire weather conditions” that may lead to rapid spread and growth.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service predict strong westerly winds that will bring isolated to widely scattered dry thunderstorms. The warning extends until 9 p.m. Monday night.
Fire managers Sunday night estimated the fire to have covered 1,500 acres. It was 15 percent contained as of 10 p.m. Sunday.