An incredibly rapid response and seamless interagency cooperation prevented Sunday’s Wildlife Museum Fire from hurting any humans or damaging any property.
That’s no small feat given the valley’s dry state of vegetation and “high” fire danger.
When a lightning strike ignited the brushfire Sunday afternoon high on East Gros Ventre Butte, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest fire crews rushed into action. They were joined by fearless staff and volunteers from no fewer than 15 other agencies. Their hierarchy of operations is simple: Protect people, property and then contain and extinguish the fire.
Luckily, no dwellings were in the immediate vicinity of the fire. But just over the ridge and directly to the north and south lie multiple single-family homes and hotels, not to mention the priceless artwork in the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
The firefighters, law enforcement officers and first responders who race toward danger while everyone else flees are heroes.
In these dog days of August, when most people are weary from the relentless pace of tourism, commerce and recreation, it’s incredible to watch a coordinated effort dance in the face of peril and prevent disaster. As the valley became choked with smoke, the fire’s elevated position meant many residents were able to watch some of the action from a safe distance.
Although the fire was largely on private land, making it the responsibility of Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, Fire Marshal Kathy Clay said the Bridger-Teton crew was invaluable.
“The Forest Service sat on this fire for us last night,” Clay said Monday. “They were there. They sat on the line, they slept on the line to be able to watch our fire. That’s saying quite a bit about our partners working collaboratively.”
News&Guide reporters and editors hustled to distribute emergency information quickly and accurately. Two reporters and a photographer were on the scene, assisted by a photo editor and two editors in the office, all working on digital and social media coverage, plus Jackson Hole Daily editors preparing an article for print. The Hole Scroll app and JHNewsAndGuide.com website sent alerts and notifications to cellphones and email accounts during the action.
See more fire coverage on the cover of this edition, including dramatic photographs of the firefight, on page 25A and 36-38A. Community members pitched in, contributing more images from various vantage points. Page 37A has a list of 17 agencies that cooperated to avert a tragedy. The next time you encounter someone in any of those agencies, extend a hand in gratitude.
Our community’s track record for interagency collaboration is a model for what true neighbors can achieve when they work together.