Salt Lick Fire Winds Down
47% Contained: 2,582 acres
July 16, 2007
Officials report that firefighters on the Salt Lick fire began mop up efforts in earnest today (Monday, July 16). Mop up means that crews are finding and extinguishing every remaining hot spot or smoke they can find all along and up to 200 feet inside the fire line. The 200-foot perimeter will help prevent any sparks from spotting outside the burned area should fuels rekindle over the next few weeks as things dry out more. Mop up efforts will be the focus of the suppression efforts for the next several days on this fire, officials said.
As of 6:00 PM July 16, 2007 the Salt Lick Fire is estimated to 47% contained and remains at 2,582 acres. Fire managers estimate full containment to be reached on July 19, 2007.
This fire is in an area that has considerable standing dead due to Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. “This small but powerful insect is increasing the fire danger on the forest,” fire managers said in a recent news release. A long history of aggressive fire suppression has led to an imbalance, helping the Mountain Pine Beetle take hold. Lack of fire on the landscape has allowed solid stands of same age class lodgepole pine to provide beetles with a perfect environment to thrive. Continuous drought conditions, like those being experienced in Wyoming for the past several years, have stressed trees making them more susceptible to beetle infestation.
Fire managers say the Salt Lick Fire burned very intensely in some areas that had large amounts of beetle kill. But in other areas it burned in a mosaic pattern, leaving patches of different types of trees of varied ages. “This mosaic pattern is ideal, not only to prevent beetle infestation, but also to support the various wildlife species that call the Bridger-Teton home,” said fire officials.
In addition to the dangerous firefighting efforts, firefighters have to contend with other hazards as well. Lightning, stinging insects, dehydration, altitude sickness are also potential hazards to those fighting wildfires. In the Bridger-Teton National Forest firefighters must be aware of one more hazard that is big, fast, and unpredictable. Bears. Both Grizzly and Black bears are present in the area of this fire. Working in bear country means firefighters need to take extra precautions as they go about fighting the fire.
Firefighters that are spike camped near the fire lines must keep all potential attractants in large metal “bear boxes”, located well away from where they sleep. In addition, each crew on this fire is armed with aerosol bear spray, similar to pepper spray or Mace product used by police in human attacks. So far, there have been no reported encounters with bears on this fire, although bears are known to be present in the area.
The key for safe firefighting is the same as for safe recreation. Keep a clean camp, which means not only concern about food but food packaging and garbage. Firefighters working on the Salt Lick Fire are following the same precautions backcountry recreationists need to in the Upper Green River country. Don’t surprise a bear; make noise to let them know people are present. Watch for bear sign and give bears every chance to avoid an interaction with people.