Goat Creek Fire

On the night of July 18th, a thunderstorm set a tree ablaze on the ridge above Goat Creek. The strike was on the east side of Rock Creek valley, at mile 6.8, and it was this lightning strike that began the Goat Creek fire. Over days and then weeks, the fire expanded south towards Brewster Creek, north towards Babcock Mountain, and east towards Golden Mountain. Eventually the forest service renamed all three Rock Creek fires--Goat Creek, Sliderock and Little Hogback--as the Sapphire Complex fire. At the time of this posting, the combined fire was over ten thousand acres with over 400 firefighters assigned.

On the bright side, fire is natural with many benefits to the forest, such as reducing the fuel load on the forest floor. And, the damage from the fire wasn't continuous, with much of the forest surviving and perhaps the stronger for it. Just as Rock Creek healed from the 2007 Sawmill fire, so it will from the 2017 Goat Creek fire. Next spring will be extra green!

5 pages / 48 photos

Rock Creek Sunset, Goat Creek Fire photo

Rock Creek Sunset

Sunset over Rock Creek at Spring Creek, just before the storm.

Rock Creek Sunset, Goat Creek Fire photo

Rock Creek Sunset

Sunset over Rock Creek at Spring Creek. A little more than an hour after this photo was taken, a thunderstorm erupted over Rock Creek. A strike on the ridge over Goat Creek left a tree in flames. Subsequent heavy rains extinguished the fire, at least above ground. Despite the rain, the fire must have continued to smolder deep in the roots of the tree.

Lightning Struck Tree, Goat Creek Fire photo

Lightning Struck Tree

This photo is backlit by the morning sun; however, up on ridgeline to the left there is burnt wreckage that might be from the lightning struck tree.

Goat Creek Fire Begins, Goat Creek Fire photo

Goat Creek Fire Begins

Although multiple people reported the lightning strike and fire, thermal imaging scans from helicopters showed no sign of heat or fire. That changed in the afternoon when the ridge over Goat Creek suddenly burst into flames.

Chinook Helicopter over Goat Creek, Goat Creek Fire photo

Chinook Helicopter over Goat Creek

The terrain was too steep and difficult to send in a team of hotshots, so helicopters were used. Here a Chinook heavy helicopter makes a bucket drop on the ridge over Goat Creek.

Chinook and Helibucket, Goat Creek Fire photo

Chinook and Helibucket

Chinook heavy helicopter and water bucket over Goat Creek.

Chinook Bucket Drop, Goat Creek Fire photo

Chinook Bucket Drop

Unfortunately, by the evening of the 19th, large embers from the fire tumbled and spotted down into Goat Gulch. That started a new lower fire, that then spread lower still. Fighting the fire became like herding cats.

Bucket Drop, Goat Creek Fire photo

Bucket Drop

On the morning of the 20th, the helicopters did their best to cool down the hot spots.

Fire on the slopes of Goat Gulch, Goat Creek Fire photo

Fire on the slopes of Goat Gulch

Crown Fire, Goat Creek Fire photo

Crown Fire

By late afternoon on Thursday the 20th, crown fires began breaking out in the steep terrain of Goat Gulch.