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Family asks for privacy
Investigators focus on Little Horsethief property where wildfire seems to have ignited.
By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: September 12, 2012
The owner of the house closest to where the Horsethief Canyon Fire appears to have started is distraught and cooperating with investigators, his family said Tuesday evening.
In a statement, Jay and Jason Anderson said their father, 76-year-old James Anderson, is “visibly shaken” by the blaze. Fire investigators said the blaze was human-caused and is being investigated by the Teton County prosecuting attorney and others.
James Anderson “remains extremely distraught about the ignition of the Little Horsethief fire and the effect it has had on friends, families, and community members that he has lived with, and been close to, for so many years,” the statement said. (Read the full text at the bottom of the page.)
“He continues to work with the authorities in conducting the investigation as to the source of the fire and the reasons for its magnitude and breadth.”
Family members declined to elaborate on the statement Tuesday evening.
Witnesses say the fire appeared to start in the backyard of the northernmost home in the Little Horsethief subdivision. The Teton County Assessor’s Office lists James Anderson III as the property owner.
The Andersons’ statement did not say how or who might have started the fire.
“We ask this community for its understanding, patience and prayers as we endure this tragedy as privately as we are able,” the statement reads.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is not yet complete. Investigators do not plan to release further information until the investigation is done, Fire Marshal Kathy Clay said.
“We need to close up the investigation before we can release any information,” Clay said at a briefing Tuesday morning. “That is not yet done.”
Clay is investigating the fire, which started Saturday afternoon, along with investigators from the Bridger-Teton National Forest and a U.S. Forest Service special agent called in from Idaho Falls, she said.
Teton County prosecutor Steve Weichman has also been to the fire’s starting point, according to the county’s release.
Little Horsethief resident John Crook said he called authorities at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday because he believed the house farthest to the north on his street was burning.
“A friend of mine who was working across the street at the LOTOJA race called me and said he thought one of my neighbors’ houses was on fire,” he said. “I went outside and looked, and I saw black smoke coming from behind that far north house.”
Crook’s home is about a half-mile south of where he saw the fire, he said.
Teton County Dispatch logs show the first report of the fire was at 2:49 p.m.
Within minutes of that call, Crook said, the fire had spread to Wilson Canyon, east and uphill of the Anderson property. Other witnesses agree that they first noticed the blaze at or near the canyon mouth.
There are two structures on the Anderson lot, both of which county records list as ranch homes.
Visits to the property Monday and Tuesday showed the land charred black up to the door of the smaller northern house. The larger house is farther south, and remains surrounded by green lawn. Neither building has any obvious fire damage.
No one answered either door Monday, but a charred metal drum was visible near the edge of the burned area.
On Tuesday, a woman came out of the larger home and asked reporters to leave.
Please know that the consequences of this tragedy are being realized acutely in our homes. Our father, James Anderson, who turned 76 years of age last month, is visibly shaken. He was and remains extremely distraught about the ignition of the Little Horse Thief fire and the effect it has had on friends, families, and community members that he has lived with, and been close to, for so many years.
He continues to work with the authorities in conducting the investigation as to the source of the fire and the reasons for its magnitude and breadth.
We ask this community for its understanding, patience and prayers as we endure this tragedy as privately as we are able.
Sincerely, Jay & Jason Anderson