Aug 3, 2015

Wildfire burning west of Dayton could be 'a long, drawn-out incident'

Firefighters are trying to snuff out a wildfire west of Dayton, but it's tough-to-access location may allow it to keep burning for some time, fire officials say.

“There is potential for a long, drawn-out incident,” Bighorn National Forest Fire Management Officer Jon Warder said in a Monday news release.

The Sheep Creek Fire in Tongue River Canyon was spotted around 4 p.m. Sunday and was estimated to have grown from a half-acre to more than 100 acres by Monday afternoon.

The Sheep Creek Fire burned through rugged terrain on Sunday. Photo courtesy Bighorn National Forest
Firefighters are trying to suppress the fire and keep it from spreading, but it's burning between rocky cliffs, making a direct attack unsafe, the news release said.

Firefighters used a single-engine air tanker, a helicopter, an air attack plane, and approximately 10 Bighorn National Forest personnel on Sunday and monitored the fire throughout the night.

They ordered a type 1 helicopter for Monday “and our plan is to use it to keep the fire in check until predicted precipitation and cooler temperatures arrive tomorrow (Tuesday),” Warder said in a statement.

“If our initial attempts today and tomorrow, along with the expected weather, do not control this fire, the fire will be established on enough steep, canyon-wall, terrain that this may become a longer lasting incident,” he added.

More resources, including two 20-person handcrews and smokejumpers, were also believed to be on their way to the scene on Monday.

The Sheep Creek Fire fire is primarily on the Amsden Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Area, managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. It's on, or near, Wyoming State land and the Bighorn National Forest. Numerous agencies and several private landowners and community members are helping with the suppression effort.

The fire started along the Tongue River Canyon Trail, approximately one mile up canyon from the trailhead. The cause remains under investigation.

Bighorn National Forest Tongue River District Ranger Amy Ormseth said firefighters from the Dayton Volunteer Fire Department and the forest responded quickly on Sunday and “made every effort to catch this fire,” but she said they were thwarted by the steep canyon hillsides.

“We value our firefighters and while we fight fire aggressively, bringing people home at the end of the day, firefighters and the public, remains our number one priority,” Ormseth said.

Trails and roads in the Tongue River Canyon area are being temporarily closed because of the fire.

The Sheep Creek Fire started along the Tongue River Canyon Trail. Photo courtesy Bighorn National Forest


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