Due to last winter’s anemic snowfall in Tahoe and the Rocky Mountain West, we knew wildfire risk would be high this summer. Early-season blazes in Colorado and New Mexico made us hyperaware, and the absence of rain underscored the point.
This morning, NOAA announced that 2012 was the third hottest summer on record and that Wyoming experienced a record dry spell. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Little Horsethief Fire is spreading through the mountains south and east of Jackson Hole and that it’s within a mile of the town hill, Snow King Resort.
The fire, which started five miles south of Jackson in Little Horsethief Canyon, has been burning since 3 p.m. Saturday. Evacuation advisory areas include the southeastern corner of town and the 400 acres that comprise Snow King Resort.
As of this afternoon, the fire was 15 percent contained. This morning, you could see flames from town.
In a meeting earlier today, Teton County Fire Marshal Kathy Clay called the blaze “pretty volatile,” and said that the fire’s path would be weather dependent.
Unfortunately, it looks like weather isn’t on the town’s side. Jackson Hole News and Guide Environment Reporter Mike Koshmrl says there was light rain this morning, but now it’s “bluebird and gusty.” The National Weather Service forecast is for heavy winds and lightning, which could add to the problem.
The U.S. Forest Service took over incident command today. According to the local paper, “The fire is 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 lost when it burned Saturday.”
Jackson residents are trying to stay optimistic. This morning, local ski mountaineering and climbing guide, farmer, and PR guru of Jackson’s Denny, Ink Eric Henderson said that Snow King looked like a war zone, but tried to see the upside for skiers, noting that a burn could include, “Seeding clouds for snow and thinning trees for skiing.”
If you look at fire from a skiing perspective, his positivity isn’t unfounded. The 2007 Castle Rock Fire that burned through Sun Valley opened up terrain on the backside of Bald Mountain. Still, Jackson Hole residents are hoping for rain and positive winds.