Shoal Creek Fire sparked by downed power lines

BTNF Wes Johnston photo Flames climb up an old burn scar Sunday after gusty winds blew over a tree that knocked down power lines at the south end of Hoback Canyon.

Strong gusts of

wind felled a pine tree Sunday afternoon,

knocking down power lines to the ground

and starting a wildfire with sparks from

the live line.

Monday, Lower Valley Energy’s

Brian Tanabe confirmed the cause of the

fire and resulting power outages. Sunday,

firefighters actively worked with

chainsaws to clear timber from around

the downed wires. Power went out from

Camp Creek Inn into Hoback Basin and

the Upper Green.

The fire, fueled by winds, light timber,

grass and sagebrush, is reported at about

25 acres, across the Hoback River from

the intersection of Cliff Creek Road and

Highway 191. It was reported around 1:45

p.m. by motorists, some of whom stopped

to try and put out the fire by filling plastic

buckets from the river, according to Sublette

County Forest Service Deputy Wes

Johnston.

Other observers said the blaze originated

at the power pole across the river at

the base of the mountains and the engines

on hand could not ford it.

Johnston said the flames moved directly

up a draw with an old fire scar from

the 2016 Cliff Creek Fire and put itself

out when gusty winds changed direction.

However, embers from burning trees at

the bottom of the next gully blew uphill

and torched more pines.

The Forest Service responded with a

fire tanker and firefighters crossed the

river on foot, hiking up the steep gully

to wield their pickaxes. A helicopter was

grounded for a time at the Hoback Guard

Station and unable to fill and drop water

due to high winds in the canyon.

Sublette County firefighters responded

and stationed their engines near Black

Powder Ranch.

Power came back on early Monday

morning, according to Bondurant residents

told that Lower Valley Energy

crews were waiting for a replacement

pole.

“Power has been restored to all affected

by the outage,” said Teton Interagency

on Monday.

Winds gusted to well over 30 miles an

hour Sunday and changed directions in

the Cliff Creek and Hoback drainages, according

to people in the immediate area

just before the fire started.

On Sunday, the Forest Service brought

in a five-person helitack crew, two Forest

Service engines and five Sublette County

engines were on hand as well as three

hand-crews. Monday, that increased to

about 35 personnel with two more engines

and county and Forest Service managers.

A 20-person Teton Interagency hotshot

crew was expected to arrive later on Monday,

according to the agency.

Monday brought a change in weather

with some precipitation and cool temperatures

predicted. Firefighters were still

working on the Shoal Creek Fire at press

time.

Restrictions

The Bridger-Teton National Forest

has implemented Stage 1 Fire Restrictions.

These restrictions allow fires only

in developed campgrounds and picnic

areas in approved structures along with

the Teton and Gros Ventre wildernesses.

Please note that fires are prohibited in

the Bridger Wilderness and all dispersed

campsites under this order.

Even with rain in the forecast it is

important to remain vigilant. Months of

dry, windy conditions have cured forest

vegetation, allowing fires to start easily

and spread rapidly. Check the Teton Interagency

Fire website at www.tetonfires.

com for the latest information about fire

restrictions. If you camp where fires are

allowed and you choose to have one, ensure

your fire is “dead out” before leaving

the site. This means cold to the touch – “If

it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”

To report a wildfire, call 911, Sublette

County dispatch 307-367-4378 or Teton

Interagency Dispatch Center 307-739-3630.

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