11 Sep 2009, 12:58am
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Indian Firefighting: The Little People Fire

The following fire report was compiled from various information sources and posted at W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking [here]. I thought it might interest SOS Forests readers, so I am posting it here, too.

I post daily about many active fires. This one was different. On this fire the landowners jumped on it aggressively and put it out forthwith. On many fires that I report, the landowner is the US Government and many of the fires are not fought at all or half-heartedly at best. The landowner on the Little People Fire is not the Feds. They are resident landowners, not the absentee kind. It makes a big difference.

Little People Fire

Location: Crow Reservation, 16 miles E of Bridger, Big Horn Co., MT
Specific Location: Pryor Creek above Pryor Gap, 45.313 latitude, -108.528 longitude

Date of Origin: August 31, 2009
Cause: Lightning

Situation as of 09/10/2009 6:00 pm
Personnel: not specifically reported
Size: 126 acres
Percent contained: 100%

Little People Photographs [here]

Incident Overview [here]

More than 3000 lightning strikes hit the Crow Reservation as a cold front passed through Monday, August 31. Lots of rain accompanied the storm, yet smoldering smokes appeared for several days afterward.

The Flatlip fire was reported at 12:30 Wednesday, September 2 in Lost Creek Canyon by homeowners south of Pryor. A squad from Crow and 16 smokejumpers contained that fire September 6. Responding to the Flatlip fire Wednesday Sept. 2, at 12:40 Pryor Engine Boss Darin Plain Bull saw a second smoke behind the Castle Rocks.

Recognizing that the second fire would have more burn potential and better access, he brought the Pryor squad and Engine 204 to the Little People fire, calling for air support. The firefighters had to ford Pryor Creek six times and climb almost 1000′ to the fire.

Within a half hour after the crew arrived, single engine and heavy air tankers from Billings supported by an aerial observer (”air attack”) were dropping retardant on the Little People fire, which then burned across retardant lines during the night two nights in a row.

Firefighters needed the fire to be dampened by water or retardant before they could dig line on the extremely steep, inaccessible canyon slopes at the fire. The fire area was too hazardous and inaccessible for work after dark.

Five helicopters and about 130 line firefighters were on the fire during its most intense fire behavior. Crews came from the Blackfeet, Crow, Ft. Peck, and Rocky Boy Reservations, and from the Bighorn National Forest. Helitack came from Yellowstone National Park and the Boise National Forest. Photos of crews and helitack are posted at “Photographs” above.

The fire slopped across containment lines for two nights due to rolling material. To rectify that, smokejumpers from the Flatlip fire spiked out on the fireline two nights to catch any fire growth early in the morning.

On September 6 crews maintained lines around the 126 acre fire for a full day without any further slopovers. Wetting rain of 0.13″ or so fell on September 7, the same day the fire was declared contained. Two crews demobed September 8. Two more crews worked through the day extinguishing hotspots, and putting water bars into fireline to prevent erosion. Most personnel demobed September 9, when the fire was turned over to Type 4 management from Crow BIA Forestry.

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