Mule Train Supplies Calif. Wildland Firefighters


A pack train of 30 horses and mules is helping to supply firefighters who are working to contain the three- week old Lion Fire in the Golden Trout Wilderness. The animals are hauling food and supplies into the Lion Meadow area where 55 firefighters are based. Animals from seven national forests in California are part of the packing effort, which is being coordinated by the US Forest Services regional pack stock program.

Pack animals have been used in remote parts of the Sierra Nevada for generations, said Michael Morse, wilderness and pack stock program manager for the Inyo National Forest. By supplying the firefighters with horses and mules, we are able to both minimize the use of motorized equipment in the wilderness and pass on packing skills to the next generation of wilderness managers.

Hauling approximately 1,200 pounds per trip, the pack train can supply a crew of 20 people for three days. The trip takes approximately nine hours round-trip, making for a long day in the saddle. This is not easy work, said Pat Baily, wilderness manager for Los Padres National Forest. You have to have a passion for it.

The horses are based at the Lewis Camp trailhead, a popular destination for Back Country Horsemen, which is set up with corrals and hitching posts. Keeping the pack animals supplied with food and water isnt difficult, said Paul Gibbs, Lion Fire Incident Commander. Additionally, its good to have horsemen on the ground, updating wilderness visitors on the status of the fire. The pack train is also able to make deliveries when it is too smoky for helicopters to supply crews.

The southern and eastern portion of the Golden Trout Wilderness is open for use, but does receive smoke daily. An area closure is in effect for all backcountry trails northeast of Shake Camp Trailhead to trail 32E06 north of Round Meadow. A detailed map of trail closures in the Golden Trout Wilderness can be found on Inciweb: Fire information lines are established at Kernville #760-379-5646 ext. 515, or Springville #559-539-2607 ext. 214.

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