Lovell firemen tackle fire in Big Horns

From the top of the Big Horns to a pair of rural fires in the Big Horn Basin below, the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept. has had a busy week to close out the month of June.

On Monday, the LVFD was called to make the initial attack on what was subsequently named the Bald Fire atop the Big Horn Mountains Monday, Fire Chief Jim Minchow reported.

The call came in at 5:45 p.m., he said, as firemen responded to a report of smoke in the trees in the Bald Mountain area across the highway and to the north of the familiar landmark. Minchow said his crew of nine firemen attacked the lightning-caused fire in order to contain it until federal crews arrived.

Doug Savage uses a stepladder to reach a hot spot at the shop fire west of Cowley Tuesday, one of more than 100 calls the fire department has already responded to this year. David Peck photo
Doug Savage uses a stepladder to reach a hot spot at the shop fire west of Cowley Tuesday, one of more than 100 calls the fire department has already responded to this year.
David Peck photo

“We tried to get a line around the fire and contain it to that area,” Minchow said. “We hauled water in with our Kabota and also used water backpacks and shovels to contain it. We could haul about 75 gallons per trip with the Kabota to hit hot spots.”

Minchow said firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management relieved the Lovell firemen around 10 p.m. and returned Tuesday to make sure the fire was completely out.

According to a Forest Service press release, 10 federal firefighters responded to the Bald Fire and, with the help of the Lovell firemen, held the fire to about 2/10ths of an acre. The fire started in heavy timber at the head of the Little Big Horn River drainage.

Though the fire danger rating is moderate in the Bighorn National Forest at this time, conditions are trending toward a high rating, the Forest Service reported. Forest visitors are urged to be extra vigilant with campfires, equipment and cigarettes as temperatures increase and fuels dry out.

Tuesday fires

The LVFD was called to two fires Tuesday. The first call came at 12:57 p.m. when the firemen were called to a shop a quarter mile west of Cowley on U.S. 310. Workers at the shop building, owned by Jay Welch, were installing windows when the side of the building caught on fire, Minchow said. The blaze was quickly extinguished.

Then at 4:54 p.m. firemen were called to the Zeller Farm seven miles east of Lovell on Lane 11½ where an electric wax melter that is part of the Zeller bee operation caught a building on fire. Minchow said the device had been smoldering earlier in the day around noon and the power was shut off and water applied. But a hood on the device was not put down and the fire reignited and started a blaze that burned up a wall and into the ceiling, Minchow said.

The fire was contained in one small room in a larger metal shop building, Minchow said. That room was gutted, he said, and the fire did some damage to a portion of the shop building, which sustained some smoke, heat and water damage. Minchow guessed around $10,000 in damage was done.

The two fires Tuesday were the 101st and 102nd calls of the year for the fire department at the midpoint of the year, with 13 in June alone. The department averages about 120 calls per year, Minchow said.

By David Peck