Fuels Treatment Projects Aid in Containment of Wolf Den Fire
The Wolf Den Fire, sparked by lightning on June 29, 2012, started near the historic town site of Dragon on BLM Vernal Field Office lands. Resources were dispatched; however, they were unable to contain the fire due to erratic fire behavior. The area had experienced drought conditions since early spring and there were high amounts of carry-over fuels from the previous year.
Firefighters tried to burn out along roads and use aviation resources to stop the fire. It continued to burn through retardant drops and jumped the roads being used as containment lines. At the end of day one, the fire was approximately 2,300 acres and was threatening an above-ground natural gas line. Also being threatened were numerous oil and gas lines worth millions of dollars.
At risk were the historic ghost towns of Dragon and Rainbow an old Gilsonite mine (a mineral found only in Utah and Spain), and active Gilsonite veins. The area is also dotted with numerous historic cabins, dugouts, and evidence of past mining activities.
After two days, the fire had burned 10,000+ acres and was uncontained. The fire was burning rapidly toward the Colorado border. Fire managers developed a plan to use the 1,000-acre Augusi fire area (which had burned in 2010) to help contain the Wolf Den Fire.
The Augusi fire had burned in a south to north direction, paralleling the Colorado state line. The Vernal Resource Management Plan identified the Augusi area for prescribed fire as managers believed that it would benefit wildlife, range and woodland ecosystems. The Augusi fire area was strategically located to prevent the Wolf Den fire from crossing into Colorado.
A five-mile burnout operation along the Atchee Ridge road secured the fire and directed it into the Augusi area. Crews prepared the area by removing brush along the burnout boundary. Their work was also enhanced by previous fuels projects in the area. These projects enabled the crews to complete their preparation in half the time it would have normally taken. The burnout was then conducted and the fire was successfully contained.
The Wolf Den Fire intersected four vegetative treatment areas, and two prescribed fire areas. As the fire intersected the treatments, it responded as planned and was contained. The Augusi fire prevented the continued spread of the Wolf Den Fire. The Vernal Field Office attributes the success in controlling the Wolf Den Fire to effective fuels management projects. This showcases the multiple tools being used to care for lands the BLM is entrusted to manage.
To learn more about Utah firefighting and other fuels management projects, visit www.utahfireinfo.gov