Fire that Caused Evacuations at Jackson, WY Was Caused When Balloons Tangled with Power Lines

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Locals stopped to watch and take photos. Credit: Clay Bradley

The Saddle Butte fire that caused evacuations near Jackson, WY over the weekend was started when a bunch of foil balloons tangled with powerlines.

The incident created an electric arc that sent flaming materials flying to the ground, igniting dried grass below the power lines, starting the 255-acre Saddle Butte Fire, investigators confirmed Monday night. Rubber balloons would not have had the same effect.

“Because the metal balloon, that tin foil balloon, was creating an arc it would drop sparks on the ground and that’s what started the fire,” Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen said Monday.

Chief Hansen added that authorities know the individual that had the balloons and how the balloons escaped, but it’s unlikely they’ll see consequences, according to the JH News and Guide.

“This is truly just a fluke accident,” Hansen said. “Typically people are held responsible if there’s some kind of malice or carelessness. … In a true accident case, oftentimes we’re not going after someone.”

Jackson, wyoming, wildfire, evacuation, saddle butte
Saddle Butte subdivision, Jackson, WY

The fire started on Sunday afternoon across from The Virginian and quickly spread. Fire behavior slowed Sunday evening as the wind died down, slurry and water knocked down flames and temperatures cooled.

The fire didn’t grow Monday, as crews focused on holding the line and clamping down on hot spots, Teton County Public Information Officer Kristen Waters said. The fire was 50%-60% contained Monday evening.

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