LAME DEER — An underground coal bed caught fire on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and lit the Burning Creek fire on Sunday, according to a Monday release from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Northern Cheyenne Fire Management.
The Burning Creek fire was contained at less than one acre Sunday.
Coal seam fires are tricky to fight. They happen when underground seams of coal catch fire through natural or human activity.
The release states, "It is impossible to extinguish coal seam fires. The fire is already buried, so heaping dirt does not help, and underground hollows can trap bulldozers. Sprayed water disappears underground or carries carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and other noxious gases that pool nearby. "
Officials said the safest strategy for firefighters is to remove fire fuels from the area of the burning holes in the ground.
“Fighting fire with fire: that’s how we roll,” said Fire Management Officer Adam Wolf.
The Burning Creek Fire is not the first coal seam fire that has started on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation this summer.
In July, a burning coal seam lit the Reservation Creek fire that burned 13 acres. The same seam also burned 10 acres in the Cook Fire.
To prevent the Reservation Creek Fire from spreading while unattended, on Monday crews burnt a safe area of 20 acres around the burning hole.
On Aug 6, a burning coal seam located between Busby and Muddy Cluster ignited the Indian Coulee Fire. That fire burned 38 acres behind the Painted Hills area north of U.S. Highway 212.
The release states more than 80 occasionally-burning coal seams are recognized on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.