Despite Wet Weather, There Have Been Forest Fires in Grand Teton National Park

Smokey's not always around, so please remember to douse your campfire!

It's been rainy so much here in the Northern Rockies that the locals are about to start sprouting gills. Nevertheless, there have been four forest fires inside and outside of Grand Teton National Park, with two directly tied to human careless.

Things might have been much worse, as 19 campfires on Forest Service lands were abandoned by campers but fortunately didn't spread.

That anything could burn in the region is a bit surprising, as more often than not it's rained for the past five or six weeks. Not always torrential downpours, but enough to keep the landscape wet, moist, and green. And yet, according to Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest officials, their firefighters have been busy.

Teton interagency firefighters responded to a lightning-caused fire in Grand Teton National Park on Saturday evening, June 20. The "Snake Fire"was ignited about one mile north of the Teton Point Turnout on Highway 26/89/191 during the passage of an active thunderstorm. The fire is currently a quarter-acre in size, and Teton interagency firefighters are managing the fire for resource benefit.

The first fire of the season in Grand Teton started Wednesday, June 17. The Granite Bridge Fire was ignited by an illegal cooking fire on the Granite Canyon Trail, 1.3 miles from the trailhead. The party that reported the fire also knocked down the main flames. Interagency firefighters from the Moose-based engine 3 hiked in and extinguished it.

“With the rain we’ve had this month, it was surprisingly dry under the trees. The duff burned deeper and hotter than we would have expected,” said Lisa Elenz, fire management officer for Grand Teton National Park. “People need to be aware that fires are not permitted in the park’s backcountry; they are only allowed in certain lakeshore sites by special permit.”

The Bridger-Teton National Forest has also had two fires this season, both fires began on Sunday, June 7; the Sheep Fire in Curtis Canyon at Sheep Creek was a human-caused, debris-burning fire, and the George’s Canyon Fire was a single tree lightning-caused fire on Munger Mountain, south of Jackson. Both of the fires have been extinguished.

As for the 19 abandoned campfires, forest officials are urging folks to be more conscientious.

“People tend to be lulled into a false sense of security because of the wet weather and the green grass,” said Leslie Williams, fire prevention technician with the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “Campfires still need to be cool to the touch, fully extinguished with water and dirt, before leaving them. Should a campfire escape and start a wildfire, the responsible party can be held liable for suppression costs. Depending how large the fire is, that cost can be in the millions.”