Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Couple visits cabin near huge fire

 

October 24, 2018

Courtesy photo

Jack and Debbie Leathers take a selfie near their cabin.

While many residents lost their homes to the Roosevelt Fire in Sublette and Lincoln counties, one Green River couple was happy their future retirement home was still standing.

Jack and Debbie Leathers recently returned to their cabin in the Sargent Subdivision, which is about 3/4 of a mile off Highway 191 near the Hoback Ranches area. As they drove to their cabin, they didn't know what to expect. They had seen photos on webcams close to the home, but seeing it in person is different.

All they knew is that the fire that claimed more than 50 homes in the Hoback Ranches area, but didn't claim theirs.

"It's not a very big place, but it's our retirement home," Debbie said.

When they arrived at their sage green cabin, they discovered the fire had come within 50 yards of their home. It was even closer to their neighbor's cabin.

"The neighbors said they could have roasted marshmallows off of their deck," Debbie said.

Jack and Debbie could see the remnants of a fire retardant mixture. They also saw the area where firefighters had used heavy equipment to shove dirt to create a barrier where the fire would have to jump to get to private property.

The Leathers said the area near their home that was burnt was not from the Roosevelt Fire, but from a back-burn fire. The firefighters burnt that area to prevent the Roosevelt Fire from going through that area and making it's way through the subdivision and over Highway 191.

"Those firefighters were amazing," Debbie said.

The Leathers also explored the area around their cabin, which was burnt.

"This is where my stepson and I scouted. It was our playground," Jack said looking at burnt black ground.

But that wilderness playground is now gone along with the game cameras Jack had set up around the property to watch bear and deer on.

They walked up a trail were the sagebrush was originally waist high, but there was nothing left.

"When we were up there the roots of the trees were still smoldering," Jack said.

The Leathers couldn't believe how one area of the forest was untouched and right next to it was black, scorched ground. One thing the Leathers noticed walking on the trail was how some winter grass was starting to sprout. It was exciting to see how nature was already starting to repair itself.

Removing items

When the Leathers received notification that the Roosevelt fire was only 15 miles from their home, they decided to get as many items out of the cabin as possible. Jack was out of town on a business trip at the time so Debbie and some of the family made three trips to the cabin, grabbing as much as they could. During the first couple of trips, the smoke wasn't that bad and the fire seemed far away, but on the third trip the smoke was getting worse.

"I just took pictures and quilts," Debbie said.

"Things we couldn't replace," Jack said.

"I wanted to just remove everything from the house," Debbie said.

However, that wasn't possible. They left behind a lot of furniture, including an antique bedroom set. What they couldn't remove, Debbie made sure to document.

"I just took pictures of everything because I thought I was going to lose it," Debbie said.

When Jack returned from his work trip, they went up for a fourth and final trip and the smoke was heavy.

"We could feel ashes falling on us," Debbie recalled.

They got as much as they could and left, not knowing if they would ever see their cabin again.

Waiting

"Are we going to have anything left," Debbie said she wondered every day.

As the fire got closer and closer, Debbie constantly looked at the webcams near Hoback Canyon. She said the webcams actually show the road leading up to their cabin. They also looked at the fire maps released to see how close the fire was getting.

"Every day we'd just watch the map and every day it was just getting closer and closer," Debbie said.

While the fire was burning and approaching the cabin, Debbie couldn't sleep for days. She'd get up every hour and check the webcam to see if the fire burned their cabin.

On Sept. 24, firefighters were at their cabin setting up water bins to fight the fire. They had heard the fire was approaching their cabin and firefighters weren't sure if they were going to be able stop it or not.

"That was probably the worst day," Debbie said. "We just watched the camera and kept praying. It was just crazy."

The Leathers then watched a live Facebook video of the informational meetings held in Sublette County. Jack asked if the Sargent Subdivision was OK. He was amazed that his question was answered immediately. They were told it was OK, but they still weren't safe yet.

Courtesy photo

ds in the middle of the trail that was once filled with sagebrush and wildflowers.

The Sargent Subdivision had firefighters in its community for at least three or four days until they made sure the Roosevelt fire wouldn't burn through it. Then, they personally called everyone in that subdivision to make sure they knew their homes were safe.

"I can't thank those guys enough," Jack said.

Reflecting

While the Leathers were happy their future retirement home they bought five years ago and have been renovating ever since was unharmed, they felt horrible for those who lost their homes.

"It's just so sad," Debbie said. "Some people lost their homes. I just can't imagine the people who lived there and lost everything."

She said homes that were lost were not just retirements homes or cabin get away, but people's every day homes.

 

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