Alpine Lake Fire
Incident: Alpine Lake Wildfire
The Alpine Lake fire is located in steep, rugged in-accessible terrain within the Wind River Roadless Area at Alpine Lake on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The fire was first detected by backcountry users on or about August 7, 2012 and had grown to 40 acres before the fire could be reported to the Wind River Agency. The fire is now 142 acres and burning in Engelmann Spruce-Sub Alpine Fir and rock with needle cast. Due to the rugged in-accessible terrain and size of the fire the agency will monitor the Alpine Lake Fire according to the Wildland Fire Management Plan for the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Of key concern is the safety of firefighters and the general public. According to Bob Jones, Fire Management Officer for the Wind River Agency; "the area is just too hazardous to put firefighters in at the scene in Harm's Way. If the fire were small in size we could be successful in controlling it. But due to its present size and burning conditions we have chosen by our plan to monitor and evaluate on a daily basis". In addition, the local outfitter and guide and the U.S. Forest Service will be consulted to assist in reducing any potential risks to the public.
The time of year is critical in managing this fire. According to Jones, "we are moving into the critical period of the fire season, but historically, the fire season will drop off by the end of August". The agency has ordered a Long Term Fire Behavior Analyst and a Strategic Operational Planner to setup a planning area with trigger points to help assess the fire activity and potential. There are numerous rock and water barriers within the fire planning area that will assist in limiting the fire's spread potential. The Dinwoody, a similar fire on adjacent National Forest System Lands was managed successfully from July through November in 2001 with a cost savings of over 1 million dollars. The Dinwoody Fire resulted in positive effects to both the land and wildlife resources.
The Alpine Lake Fire planning area consists of miles of broken and rugged country for the fire to burn in before it could become a threat to any human developments. Those conditions coupled with the time of year and potential downturn in the fire season by the end of August meet all of the criteria for managing this fire in accordance with the Wind River Wildland Fire Management Plan.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. At present there is no public use closure for the area because the local outfitter and guide manages the visitor use. Bob Jones also emphasized that any new fire starts on the reservation will still be aggressively suppressed.
For more information on the fire, or to review the agency's Wildland Fire Management Plan, please contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs Forestry Warehouse in Fort Washakie, Wyoming at 307-332-4408.