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Sarpy fire grows to 48,000 acres Thursday in Big Horn County

Thursday smoke column on a tiny portion of the fire - Pamela Cooper - Bureau of Indian Affairs.JPG
Wednesday night on the Sarpy fire - Zack Wilson - Bureau of Indian Affairs.JPG
Posted at 8:12 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 10:08:39-04

The Sarpy fire in Big Horn County has grown to over 48,000 acres of grass and ponderosa pine on the Crow and Norhtern Cheyenne reservations, fire officials said Thursday evening.

Evacuations near Busby were rescinded about 10 a.m. Thursday by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. On Wednesday about 7 p.m., the fire burned around several homes along US 212 just east of Busby.

“It was a great team effort by private citizens, Tribal employees, and BIA and volunteer firefighters to have not lost any structures along Highway 212,” said Bobby Cooper, Northern Cheyenne Assistant Fire Management Officer, in a news release.

Heavier timber and coulees continue to burn. A tall plume rose from the fire about 2:30 p.m. Thursday where pines and grass were burning actively. The team has planned Thursday evening burnouts to strengthen existing firelines. Challenges for upcoming shifts include limited resources, rough terrain, expected weather, and taking COVID-19 precautions.

Firefighters are being resupplied in the field to address COVID-19 concerns. The Crow fire warehouse is ferrying drinking water, MREs [meals ready to eat], personal protective equipment and other necessaries to folks out on the fire.

“I’m concentrating on the people out there and what I can do to help them,” said Randy Pretty On Top, fuels specialist at Crow, in the release.

The “Type 3” team is a pick-up organization of fire professionals from several agencies running and gunning in incident management, fire operations, planning, finance and logistical support for firefighters. Drew Brown of the Beartooth Ranger District, Custer-Gallatin National Forest, is Type 3 incident commander. Colton Herrera, Sr., Crow air operations supervisor, is his trainee. On the Northern Cheyenne side, fire management officer Adam Wolf is IC with trainee Mario Pretty Boy, fuels specialist.

Saturday may be a second crazy fire weather day like Wednesday, with single-digit humidity, triple-digit temperature, and strong gusty winds from a dry cold front. Firefighters are urging residents to avoid any use of fire until at least next week when damper weather is due.

Bob Jones, BIA regional fuels specialist, said, “Both Crow and Northern Cheyenne are optimistic that after Saturday’s weather, the change to cooler, wetter weather Monday will allow fire resources to contain the Sarpy fire.”

A preliminary estimate for containment (expecting the fire to not grow any more) is September 10, and for control (having the fire dead out) is September 17.

Resources on the fire include BIA engines from Crow and Northern Cheyenne engines, contract dozers and graders, and extensive help from Northern Cheyenne tribal agencies. Nine engines traveling from Idaho and Washington are due in Thursday night.