Big Horn Mountains fire consumes 383 acres

By Ryan Fitzmaurice

A fire located 30 miles northeast of Lovell in the Big Horn Mountains had grown to 383 acres as of Tuesday afternoon. 

Named the Crater Ridge Fire, the fire is burning northeast of the Medicine Wheel. It is located north of Crater Ridge Forest Road 112 and Little Big Horn Canyon, just south of the Montana borderline. The fire is thought to have been caused by a lightning strike and is currently uncontained. 

According to Shawna Hartman, the public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, the fire is remote. Therefore, it doesn’t directly threaten any historical, architectural or other sites of value. But with dry conditions, the fire has the potential to spread.

“It’s a very dense area, and it’s very heavy fuel. There are not many fuel breaks right in the area that it’s burning, and there’s a lot of fuel to burn in the area,” Hartman said. “The potential for the fire to grow is there due to the extremely low moisture in that vegetation.”

Nearly 200 personnel are currently fighting the fire, involving three fire crews, two engines, two pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters.  According to a public report by the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team released Tuesday morning, the most fire activity Monday occurred in the Cub Creek
drainage, where helicopters dropped water over areas of intense heat to keep the fire north of Cub Creek.

According to Hartman, there are two primary challenges in containing the blaze. The first is the remote area of the fire. The location of the fire has caused the crew to install indirect containment lines, where trees and vegetation are cleared to bare minimum soil to contain the spread, as opposed to a direct fire line, which would be built
directly near the fire’s location, Hartman said. 

“It’s really remote and inaccessible,” Hartman said. “It’s a challenge for our firefighters.”

The second challenge is the limited resources available to fight the fire. Due to the number of forest fires nationwide, resources are spread out and already allocated, Hartman said. 

“It would be really beneficial to have more heavy equipment as far as logging equipment to help us clean out some fire lines and clean out some contingency lines in order to increase containment,” Hartman said. “We can always use more people on the ground. Those folks we can really put in an inaccessible area to lessen the impact.”

Hartman said there are no projections for when the fire might be contained as of Tuesday afternoon. 

As hot and dry temperatures persist, Hartman said the possibility for future forest fires remains high.

“We’re almost a month earlier into fire season than we normally would be when looking at the fuel conditions and the possibility for ignition,” Hartman said. “That is concerning. We’re asking people to be very careful in the forests and the landscape. Our fire resources are very depleted, and we still have a lot of fire season left to go.”