SUBLETTE COUNTY – A small fire that kicked off Saturday near Grizzly Creek in the Upper Hoback River area by Thursday was a raging 32,000-acre blaze that is being fought on three fronts and driving hundreds from their homes.
It was totally uncontained at press time Thursday and was still threatening homes, property and livestock even with a fleet of large fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters dumping thousands of gallons of water and retardant in Hoback Basin and around the Hoback Rim.
The three fronts are the Upper Hoback, Hoback Ranches and Jim Bridger Estates, all next to the Bridger- Teton National Forest. People get
emergency evacuation notices in three stages “Ready,” “Set,” and “Go.”
The Roosevelt Fire, reported by two hunters, started slowly but changing, gusty winds and dry weather fanned it into an inferno within two days east past the Dead Shot Ranch and nearby homes that people were asked to leave Monday night. This part of the fire came east from Grizzly Creek and Roosevelt Meadows and since burned through Noble Basin.
Yvonne Bailey and her husband stayed put until late Tuesday and then left to stay with friends. They packed important papers, some change of clothes and cherished belongings. The night before they evacuated, she said, they and firefighters extinguished spot fires burning their sagebrush. She knows her home is safe – for now.
“I don’t know when we can go back,” she said Wednesday. “There is still fire burning back there. Yes, the firemen are doing a fantastic job!”
Tuesday night, Hoback Ranches residents received the emergency alert to “go” immediately. People drove in and out, trying to gather belongings. Stephanie Housley drove in to get a friend’s two dogs as trucks, trailers, cars and four-wheelers steadily streamed out, checking in with county and forest crews. The Radakoviches watched as long as they could before coming to a family home in Pinedale.
Hoback Ranches’ quickly moving front led to evacuation alerts Thursday for Rim Ranches and Rim Station, where Shari McReynolds did not receive any emergency alerts about evacuating. A Sublette County Sheriff’s Office deputy came by later and advised her.
In the meantime, she said on the phone, people desperate for information – most left their homes two days ago. She and her husband plan to stay put.
“We’re not going anywhere unless we have to,” she said of their home and businesses.
Thursday, the Roosevelt Fire ran through the edge of Hoback Ranches. Residents who left willingly on Tuesday night have many questions and little information, they said. But they expressed gratitude to the firefighters.
“The fire right now, it’s a half-mile from my house,” said Roice McCollum. “On Tuesday we watched the fire jump three ridges and cover 1 mile of sagebrush in one hour.”
Jim McCollum said he was “extremely stressed out” – “My anxiety level is up to my head.”
Like most people, Terri Sellers grabbed the basics – “Pets, pills and papers.”
Rim Ranches residents accessed by Sargent Lane off Highway 191 and the Rim Station were warned to be ready to “go.”
Sunday and Monday, hunters, visitors, residents and ranchers between the advancing fire to the southeast toward Bridger Estates, Merna and the Beaver creeks’ area spent much of Sunday and Monday trying to pack up their RV and tent camps, pets, papers and livestock. Hundreds of cattle also were trailered or driven from summer grazing on private property to farther fields.
At the same time, Rolling Thunder tucked under the Hoback Rim got notice to evacuate. The rancher who leases the pasture moved his cattle by horseback.
But Thursday afternoon, ranchers and forest staff watched the fire moved even closer to where they’d pulled back to already. Deputies were preparing to put people at Aspen Ridge, both the ridge and subdivision next to Jim Bridger Estates, on notice as well, according to the scanner.
While updated information seemed to be sparse on the ground Thursday, everyone agreed that watching the different crews work the fire from the air and ground were doing an incredible job. At last notice, more than 230 homes were evacuated with dozens more waiting for the word to leave. One building was destroyed and several outfitter camps but no one was injured after two hunters were burned last Sunday near Grizzly Creek.
Sublette County Unified Fire volunteers are working day and night along with Forest Service personnel, Fire Chief Shad Cooper told Sublette County commissioners on Tuesday. Wednesday, the commission agreed to
pass an emergency resolution banning fires countywide; they will finalize that resolution this morning.
Numerous people, businesses and groups offered everything from emergency prescriptions to corrals to rooms, although many who evacuated are staying with friends and family.
There are 259 people working with Great Basin Interagency Team 6 in command of six crews. Equipment includes air support from two heavy Type 1 helicopters, one medium Type 2 helicopter and five light Type 3 helicopters, 10 air tankers and two 747s – “very large aircraft tankers” – most are staging at the Pinedale Airport. Four engines, four dozers and many more voluntarily parked at roadsides by concerned landowners are working as well.
For Roosevelt Fire updates or evacuation information, call the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office at 307-367-7737, visit http://inciweb.nweg.gov/incident/6212 or Facebook pages for postings by Sublette County Emergency Management, Sheriff’s Office and Bridger-National Forest.
Robert Galbreath contributed to this coverage.