Soda Lake fire grows to 96 acres, airtanker from Australia arrives to help

PINEDALE, Wyo.  — The Soda Lake fire in the Big Piney Ranger District has grown to an estimated 96 acres, according to an update from Bridger-Teton National Forest issued July 29.

Today, Wyoming Team 2 will be transferring command to Great Basin-Nevada Team 2, another type 3 team.

The Soda Lake fire is actively burning in a mixture of subalpine forest, sage, and meadows just south of Soda Lake in the South Cottonwood Creek drainage. This area is approximately three miles from the forest boundary near Bureau of Land Management, state, and private lands.

The fire was discovered on July 27 at about 3 p.m. 

Thunderstorms brought measurable rainfall to the area Wednesday afternoon and are forecast to return over the next few days. Monsoon moisture may bring significant rainfall to check fire behavior. However, unstable weather can also produce strong and erratic winds and lightning.

The initial and current response include a mixture of federal, local, and contract resources. Ground and aircrews are currently working to fully suppress the fire to protect multiple, at-risk values.

Air resources assigned to the fire include light, medium, and heavy helicopters and multiple air tankers. A New South Wales Rural Fire Service Large Air Tanker on loan from Australia to the National Interagency Fire Center made multiple drops on the fire yesterday.

The 737 Fireliner arrived in Boise Idaho over the weekend. It has a capacity of 4,000 gallons that are discharged from two internal tanks.  The aircraft is named “Marie Bashir” after Dame Marie Bashir, the former Governor of New South Wales.

The international assistance is reciprocal and includes a recent deployment of U.S. wildland firefighters to Australia. From December of 2019 through the spring (fall in Australia) of 2020, several hundred federal wildland firefighters and fire managers from the U.S. assisted with wildfires in Australia during a very difficult fire season.

“We greatly appreciate having this airtanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service assisting us,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the USDA Forest Service. “We’re proud of the long history of cooperation we have with Australia and other countries.”

The airtanker joins firefighting efforts in the U.S. at a time of significant fire activity across several regions of the country.

The National Wildfire Preparedness Level was raised to 5, the highest level, on July 14, to reflect the high level of sustained wildfire activity in the U.S. Wildfires have burned more than 3.4 million acres so far this year and more than 21,500 firefighters and support personnel are currently mobilized to large fires across the U.S.

About The Author

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.

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