Barry’s Landing Fire scatters campers, threatens ranches

A fire near Barry’s Landing on Saturday that may have started from a spark thrown by a brush hog being operated by a federal employee early in the day was still being mopped up and monitored by Forest Service and Park Service personnel on Wednesday.

A sheriff’s deputy who was on patrol in the area first spotted the fire, which was already burning across the road near Barry’s Landing. The deputy immediately called for help and alerted about 35 campers in three campgrounds in the area of the danger imposed by the fire. Major power lines in the area were also of concern.

The Lovell Fire Department was the first to respond, with Captain Bob Mangus acting as incident commander until Marvin Matheson of the Forest Service, who was a few hours away, could arrive and take over. Mangus said the crews from Lovell built fire lines in an effort to contain the fire, while waiting for helicopters and three planes from the Cody Interagency Fire Support team to arrive to help fight the fire from the air.

An airplane from the Cody Interagency Fire Support team drops a bright red stream of fire retardant material called “slurry” onto the Barry’s Landing fire on Saturday afternoon, in an effort to keep the fire from spreading to nearby campgrounds, ranches and power lines. Patti Carpenter photo

Three small planes dropped a bright red stream of fire retardant material called “slurry” onto the fire repeatedly throughout the day. Helicopters filled buckets from nearby water sources and dropped water directly onto the fire while the planes flew back to Cody repeatedly to refill their tanks with the flame retardant material.

According to Sheriff Ken Blackburn, constantly shifting winds created a dangerous and unpredictable situation for those on the ground. As a precaution, roads were blocked at Horseshoe Bend and campers were evacuated from campgrounds in the Barry’s Landing area in the early afternoon. An ambulance crew from North Big Horn Hospital was on site throughout the day but fortunately was not needed as no injuries were reported.

Matheson took over incident command in the afternoon, bringing in “hand crews,” who at press time were continuing to put out hot spots in the area. Mangus said the crews from Lovell were dismissed on Saturday at around 4 p.m. He estimates that about 35 acres had burned at that time, with additional acreage in adjacent areas affected, as well.

He said, though there are ranches in the area, in particular, the historic Ewing-Snell and the Carolyn Lockhardt ranches, none were ever threatened by the blaze to the best of his knowledge.

Mangus said it’s not uncommon for crews from Lovell to cross the Montana border to help fight fires alongside BLM, Park and Forest Service personnel.

“We have a great working relationship with the Park Service, the BLM and the Forest Service,” said Mangus.

Mangus said he logged in the Barry’s Landing fire as the 108th incident his crew has responded to since the first of the year. He said though fire danger continues to be posted as moderate, the number of fires has far exceeded normal for this time of the year.

By Patti Carpenter