The Grand Teton National Park is enduring a very hot, dry summer and the park service recently elevated the level of fire danger to “Extreme”, their highest level, which according the park service means that “fires can start easily, spread quickly, and burn intensely”….
As such, it pays for all of the park’s visitors to follow the Bridger/Teton Interagency Fire Service prescribed fire safety rules (pdf file). Furthermore, it pays to carry around a cell phone while enjoying the park’s activities – even if you only plan to be out for a few hours. Case in point, while on a hike two days ago, my wife and I spotted smoke while on the Taggart Lake trail.
Where There’s Smoke
Taggart Lake is a natural lake with picturesque views of the Grand Teton mountain range and hiking the basic trail only takes a few hours. While taking a break at the east shore of the lake to admire the <a href="views“>views from the shoreline, my wife noticed some smoke emerging from the pine trees on the west shore as shown in the pictures to your left, (click to enlarge). After taking a closer look with some binoculars to get a better fix on the position, my wife used my cell phone to call her father and have him report the smoke to the park rangers. Fortunately, her father is currently working at the National Elk Refuge, which is right next to the Teton National Park and he has a direct radio line to the Rangers. As such, we heard a helicopter approaching in less than two minutes from when we contacted her father.
The helicopter pilot located the smoke in a few minutes and after circling the location a few times (as pictured to your far left, click to enlarge) sped off and returned with a Bambi Bucket. The helicopter took several passes at the smoke plume, refilling with water directly from Taggart Lake each time. You can see the red Bambi Bucket (I had no idea that’s what they were called until I looked it up) below the helicopter in the picture to your near left (click to enlarge).
The helicopter pilot took the time to hit a few other spots in the immediate area that must have looked suspicious from that point of view. The firefighter’s efforts seemed to do the trick as the smoke was no longer visible and we headed off for the rest of our hike.
Upon returning to the trailhead, we noticed a Park Ranger fire truck that wasn’t there when we started the hike (pictured to your left, click to enlarge); another good sign that the Rangers and Interagency Firefighting Service are keeping one step ahead of disaster.
All in all, this was a good lesson with regard to keeping your cell phone with you whenever you’re heading out – regardless if it is for work or play.
Postscript: If you are traveling to the Grand Teton National Park area this summer, the direct number to report smoke or fire in the park is 307.739.3630. It only takes a moment to punch the number into your cell phone’s address book and although odds are you won’t need it, you’ll be glad it is there if you do.