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Local Staff Ride Archive

Stand 5 - The Upper Helispot

At the morning briefing on the 17th, the Mormon Lake Hotshots were assigned to improve the line on top the ridge which was previously worked by the night shift. Line construction was just to the lee side of the slope. Fire shelters were not mandatory equipment for BLM personnel at the time of the fire. The Mormon Lake Hotshots had fire shelters, but because of their weight, they were left in camp that morning - a common practice at the time.

The Mormon Lake Hotshots arrived at the helibase at 0730; and due to a series of other priorities, they never reached the upper helispot until about 1100. At this time they began improving the line from the rock bluff back down to the upper helispot.

From their position along the top of the ridge on the morning of the 17th, Mormon Lake Hotshot crewmembers would have seen residual smoke in the 16th Bowl and few smokes along the dozer line from the burnout operation on the 16th.

Fire was established in the bottom of the 17th Bowl from the Happy Jack Hotshots' burnout operation. The 17th Bowl mirrors the 16th Bowl in fuel and topography. Suppression actions on the 17th were based on the previous days' fire behavior in the 16th Bowl.

Radios were typically single-channel or only a few channels. Radios had "crystals" in them and could not be field programmed like today. They were also very expensive and only issued to key personnel. Crew Boss Tony Czak had to carry two radios: one to talk to his crew and a second to talk to overhead.

From the upper helispot looking south, up the slope, evidence of the old fireline can be seen, tying the lee side of the slope to the cliff face. Note the vegetation change of the northeast aspect slopes, large thick stands of aspen.

To the east of the upper helispot, you can see the edge of the Roan Plateau, and in the far distance, the Flat Tops Wilderness and Storm King Mountain. Storm King Mountain was the site of the fatalities which occurred during the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain in 1994.