Shale Creek Fire commands attention of crews

KEMMERER – Local and federal agencies started responding to the Shale Creek Fire over the weekend to combat the growing blaze.

As of July 19, the fire was active in roadless and rugged terrain around Indian Ridge in the Bridger-Teton National Forest north of Kemmerer. History of fire in the area has resulted in a mix of forest, meadows and large areas of dead and downed timber. Spotting southeast of the main body of fire occurred on July 17 before shifting winds on July 18 increased burning inside the spots.

“This is a remote fire with the potential to spread fast in our drought conditions,” incident commander Ron Steffens said in a statement. “A unified response – with resources from across the country and key support from Wyoming, Idaho, the Kemmerer Ranger District and the community – are all required as we work to safely control this fire in the smallest footprint possible.”

The fire is burning in aspen stands with mixed conifer that has been significantly impacted by beetle kill, according to the Forest Service. A reconnaissance flight was able to map the fire’s perimeter at about 75 acres with numerous spots up to a half-mile away from the main fire, as of July 17. That update also listed two scars from the 2017 Pole Creek Fire and the 2000 Fontenelle Fire ahead of the current blaze.

Initial response included air resources and firefighters. Smokejumpers, the Teton Wildland Fire Module and types 1 and 2 hand crews are operating from a spike camp near the fire’s perimeter. Single-engine air tankers, scoopers that pull water from nearby lakes and large air tankers, are also being utilized.

A release from the U.S. Forest Service notes that fire in recently burned areas can benefit wildlife habitat and grazing areas for the long-term but this fire currently poses risks to sage-grouse habitat, active livestock permit areas and structures to the east. Crews are looking at a methodical full-suppression strategy while maximizing safety to firefighters and the public.