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UPDATE: Fire enters Cache Creek drainage
By Emma Breysse
Date: September 8, 2012
UPDATE 6:00 p.m.: The Little Horsethief Fire has entered the Cache Creek drainage, about 2 miles from the Cache Creek trailhead, and officials say people who live on or near Snow King Mountain should be ready to evacuate. Firefighters are dropping retardant to slow the fire. Check InciWeb.org for updates and evacuation guidelines.
UPDATE 4:15 p.m.: A large smoke plume visible from the town of Jackson is attributed to a 100-acre spot fire in Wilson Canyon. Spot fires are fire starts outside the main body of a fire caused by blowing debris or embers. The incident command team has both aerial and ground resources working on the spot fire, in addition to the main body of the fire. Initial reports from air operations estimate the spot fire is roughly 1 to 1.5 miles south of Snow King Mountain. The town of Jackson is not considered to be in immediate danger, according to InciWeb.org.
UPDATE Noon, Sept. 9: Trails, lifts, the alpine slide and other mountain operations at Snow King Resort are closed due to the Little Horsethief Fire, which is burning less than 3 miles south of the in-town ski hill. The resort also has filled its snowmaking lines, allowing it to get water to the top of the Cougar lift. An extra booster pump is able to get water further up the mountain to a point on the Grizzly Trail, the resort's President Manuel Lopez said. Snow King's mountain manager Adam Shankland said the measures are "a precaution" and an effort to keep hikers off as the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the possible defense of the town hill. Josie's Ridge, Ferrin's Trail, and Cache Creek and Flat Creek trails also are closed.
UPDATE 11:15 a.m., Sept. 9: Fire managers reported the Little Horsethief Fire had grown to about 750 acres. A Red Flag Warning is in effect today, meaning conditions are ideal for fire ignition and growth. Officials are predicting southwest winds with gusts up to 30 mph today and low humidity. Fire information is available at Jackson Hole High School and at TetonFires.com.
7:30 p.m.: More than 300 acres continue to burn in the Little Horsethief area south of Jackson, and officials said the fire is growing.
Crews expect to work overnight to try to contain the fire that engulfed the ridges Saturday afternoon, Teton County spokeswoman Charlotte Reynolds said.
Residents and businesses on Deer Drive and Elk Drive south of the South Park Service Center were ordered to evacuate at around 3:30 p.m., and Reynolds said residents in the Game Creek area should begin planning in the event of an evacuation. All animals have been removed from the Animal Shelter, fire managers reported on InciWeb.org.
The fire started just behind the Little Horsethief subdivision and quickly spread into the ridges and canyons beyond.
The earliest eyewitnesses reported noticing smoke in around 3 p.m., when they saw a small plume on the ridge.
By the time Lance Cygielman, of Jackson, noticed the smoke at 3:15 while mountain biking on the Game Creek Trail, the plume had become a large billowing cloud, he said.
Saturday evening, emergency responders warned that the fire was moving toward the Greater Snow King Recreation Area in Jackson.
“It is not expected to get to the Snow King area tonight, but it is moving in that direction,” Reynolds said.
Control efforts Saturday afternoon focused on containing the fire’s northward march. Two helicopters carried water from the Snake River to the scene of the fire throughout the afternoon.
An arm of the fire briefly appeared to threaten Lower Valley Energy, which is just north of the blaze along the highway, but by Saturday night, the blaze had moved largely away from the road and into the hills.
At 6:30 p.m., agencies from around Jackson Hole were sending in what equipment they had to assist in the efforts. The interagency effort included the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, whose Willy Watsabaugh was serving as incident commander.
In addition to the two helicopters, four engines and two tenders were being used to battle the blaze, and multiple handcrews had been ordered, according to InciWeb.org.
A portion of the fire burned southward but was advancing much more slowly.
There is no official word regarding the fire’s cause, Reynolds said.
“Right now the priority is really getting the appropriate crews and apparatus on the scene,” Reynolds said. “We want to do everything we can to get this fire under control and contained.”
Throngs of residents lined the highway across from the fire, taking photos and observing efforts as the smell of smoke filled the air. Traffic on South Highway 89 moved slowly throughout the afternoon, and Teton County sheriff’s deputies controlled cars in all directions to allow the LOTOJA road bike racers to cross the highway into Melody Ranch.
Official updates will periodically be posted at InciWeb.org, Reynolds said, and Teton County Emergency Management will continue to send out alerts as needed.
6:27 p.m.: The residents in the Game Creek drainage are encouraged to begin preplanning for potential evacuation. While there isn't an evacuation in effect for Game Creek residents are asked to begin assembling nonreplaceable items.
5:21 p.m.: Crews continue to fight the blaze in the ridges behind Little Horsethief Canyon. The fire is moving slowly to north where control efforts are focused. The Lower Valley Energy plant sits to the north of the fire.
The fire also is burning to the south. The county has not responded to questions about neighborhood closures.
4:16 p.m.: Fire fighting efforts are being concentrated on the northern edge of the fire, according to News&Guide reporter Emma Breysse, who is on the scene. A helicopter is dumping water on the blaze.
Racers from the Logan to Jackson bike race are being routed into Melody Ranch, Breysse reports. Deputies are working to keep traffic controlled on Highway 89 just west of the fire.
3:39 p.m.: Residents of Elk Drive and Deer Drive south of Jackson have been ordered to evacuate due to an approaching wildfire.
Teton County Emergency Management made the announcement at 3:39 p.m. today.
Smoke from the fire became noticeable around 3 p.m.
Witnesses report the fire is burning in Little Horsethief Canyon. Trees are bursting into flame and pouring impressive amounts of smoke into the sky, a witness reported.