Why Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s short-lived Gaper Day fire started is unknown, but an errant firework may have been the reason.
That’s according to resort risk director and Teton Village Fire Department Chief Jon Bishop, who told the Jackson Hole Daily he was “uncertain of a cause” but suspected fireworks.
“The fire had originated up in the trees a bit, so that’s pretty much the only cause I could think of,” Bishop said.
Fire Marshall Kathy Clay likewise couldn’t pin down an official reason for the blaze, but she and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen thought it was probably “human caused.”
“It wasn’t a lightning strike,” Hansen said.
The fire, which burned trees near the Sundance run under the Bridger Gondola, started around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. That was shortly after the resort’s lifts closed on April Fools’ Day, an end-of-season time of revelry that locals refer to as Gaper Day.
The blaze was extinguished by 5:20 p.m.
The fire came after a rowdy day on the hill, which saw the resort close the Casper Lift around 2 p.m. Resort spokeswoman Anna Cole chalked that decision up to unruly guests who she said were flouting guidelines.
“We asked for no drinking on the lifts, we asked for people to be wearing their masks in the lift line, not to be congregating, to be providing 6 feet of space,” Cole said. “And, you know, those things were not being followed.”
Though there is snow on the ground, Clay and Hansen said fire risk still exists.
“Yes, wildland fires do happen at this time of year,” Hansen said.
The main risk, Clay said, is to south-facing slopes like those of Saddle Butte. And with warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend, dangerous conditions could exist. She asked that people be aware of possible “human starts.”
“Once we start to green up, we’ll get out of it until true wildland fire season starts,” Clay said. “But there’s always a window at the end of winter where dry south slopes can catch.”