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Contact: Public Affairs Office, 307.739.3393
During a Red Flag Warning on Friday, August 21, a previously undiscovered lightning-ignited fire began to burn actively about a mile east of Highway 89 in the Spread Creek and Wolff Ridge area of Grand Teton National Park. The Wolff Fire had been smoldering in the interior of a tree that had been struck by lightning six days earlier. The fire was controlled on August 23 and an engine crew continues to monitor the fire.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Red Flag Warning the morning of August 21 which included Grand Teton National Park. The NWS forecast—which called for strong winds gusting up to 40 m.p.h. beginning around 11:00 a.m. and a low relative humidity around 15 percent—warned that "if any fires develop, they will likely spread rapidly."
The forecast proved to be accurate as a dry cold front brought gusty winds recorded at 39 m.p.h. and relative humidity between 16 and 17 percent. With the wind, the fire began to actively spread from the single coniferous tree into grass, willow, cottonwood, aspen, and sagebrush. The five foot tall flames created a plume of smoke that visitors and rangers reported to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center around1:00 p.m.
With limited road access, around 25 wildland firefighters responded on foot and contained the spread of the fire at seven acres. Due to the Red Flag Warning, interagency fire resources had pre-planned their response, with three wildland fire engines, one patrol engine, one water tender, and crews responding from the park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS. The Teton Interagency contract helicopter and crew also assisted with the effort with water drops and by transporting a water pump and hose to the remote site.
The fire burned in an area designated as a conditional management zone by Grand Teton National Park's Fire Management Plan, meaning that naturally-ignited fires may be managed for multiple objectives and resource benefit if conditions permit. Fire managers made the decision to suppress the fire because of the potential for the fire to rapidly spread, the extremely limited availability of resources to manage a large-scale fire, and the fire's proximity to homes and power lines.
The fire danger in Grand Teton National Park was rated moderate on the day of the fire, though the national fire preparedness level of five—the highest possible rating—means that there are limited national resources available to assist with large fires. The fire danger for Grand Teton National Park increased to high today, August 25.
Area residents and visitors are requested to report any sightings of any new fire or smoke by calling 911 or Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630. For more fire information, please visit www.tetonfires.com.