Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

The Cathedral Group fire burned 46 acres in a popular bouldering area in Grand Teton National Park. While investigators were unable to pinpoint the ignition source, the fire was determined to be human-caused.

Arson Dog, Investigators Converge on
Cathedral Group Fire

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

On Sasha's first visit to Grand Teton National Park, she did what dogs love to do, sniff around. But Sasha, a 2-year-old black lab, had a purpose: she was looking for the ignition source of the 46-acre Cathedral Group Fire, which burned in the popular Boulder City climbing area in July 2010.

While Sasha didn't uncover any definitive evidence, her presence signified a new partnership with fire investigators from the USDA Forest Service, Wyoming State Forestry Division, and the National Park Service.

Fire Investigator Lesley Williams with the Bridger-Teton National Forest joined up with Miriam Fisher, a Grand Teton park ranger, to investigate the cause of the Cathedral Group Fire on July 14. They brought in the park's drug dog, and it found a point of interest, but no usable evidence. The same day, Mike Bournazian, a Wyoming State Forestry Division rural fire trainer, was searching websites and came across www.tetonfires.com, which had information on the Cathedral Group Fire. The fire kindled his interest, as he had been investigating fires in other popular climbing areas across the state. He offered his and Sasha's services to help determine the cause of the Cathedral Group Fire.

The investigation team may not have found enough evidence to cite anyone for starting the fire, but their response to the Cathedral Group Fire has fostered new relationships.

"We as investigators recognize the need to communicate with each other," she said. "We are now working on creating a storehouse where we can share information for fire investigators throughout Wyoming. Also, now we know we have a valuable resource in Sasha."

After undergoing special accelerant detection training in Maine, Sasha was obtained through a grant sponsored by Wyoming State Forestry. Her handler is the Rawlins Fire Captain and Investigator John Rutherford.

Contact: Traci Weaver, Fire Communication and Education Specialist
Phone: (307) 739-3692

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.