The Big Fish Fire was a lightning-caused fire which started July 19, 2002 and burned thousands of acres in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The fire affected the Big Fish, Paradise Creek, Florence Lake, Trappers Lake and Skinny Fish drainages. Although access to the fire area is not restricted, and all trails are open for use, the fires may impact your wilderness experience in several ways:
1. Some trail tread is unstable and subject to erosion. If you are riding or leading horses or pack stock, you are urged to exercise extreme caution when using trails in the area.
2. High winds will bring down dead, standing trees or “snags”. Please select camping sites at least tree-length distance away from trees which appear unstable. You should also carry a hand saw or axe in case trails are blocked by down-fall. Forest Service crews do their best to keep routes open, but downfall from the burn is continually piling up.
3. The fire has loosened rocks, boulders and other materials on many slopes in the burn area. It is not uncommon for loose objects to become dislodged and suddenly roll downhill onto trails. Use caution and remain alert while traveling along or below burned hillsides.
Please remain aware of your surroundings and use common sense when traveling and camping in the Flat Tops Wilderness. Hazards remaining from the fire will be present for many years and can cause serious injury or death.
The U.S. Forest Service chose to manage the Big Fish Fire under a “fire use” strategy. This strategy gives natural processes (such as naturally occuring fires) a chance to clean up and rejuvenate forests. Before the fire, timber in the Flat Tops was old and decadent. This was a result of a massive spruce bark beetle epidemics in the 1930s and 1940s. The fire created a chance for young, vigorous aspen and lodgepole pine stands to come in, and new grasses and forbs to regenerate in the meadows (this process is becoming more and more evident).
Trappers Lake Lodge burned during the fire on August 16, 2002. Record low relative humidity and fuel moistures and a strong northwest wind blew up the North Fork of the White River Valley, causing the fire to grow from 400 acres to over 7,500 acres in one and one-half days. The speed of the advancing fire did not allow fire fighters the time to adequately secure the lodg and the structure, built in 1918 was lost.
Today, the new Trappers Lake Lodge stands in the footprint of the old building. It is open and operating for business during summer months.