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Quick Response To Restaurant Fire at Grand Teton National Park Pays Off


The Ranch House Restaurant at Colter Bay Village was remodeled in 2009. Photo from Grand Teton Lodge Company.

Grand Teton National Park is one of the small number of NPS areas with "in-house" capabilities to respond to structural fires. That investment in training and equipment paid off recently when an early morning kitchen fire broke out at a restaurant in the Colter Bay area.

At 5:45 a.m. on July 30, an employee at the Colter Bay Ranch House Restaurant called 911 to report a fire in the kitchen. The call was routed to the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center, and personnel in two structural fire engines, a water tender, and an ambulance responded. Given the potential risks from a kitchen fire in a commercial restaurant, that's an appropriate first response.

Two of those units—one fire engine and the water tender—had to travel from Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Station 4, located ten miles away at Moran Junction. The good news is the ambulance and other fire engine, stationed at Colter Bay and staffed by park personnel, were located just a mile away.

The quick response and alert work by the first ranger on the scene turned the potential for a major incident into a minor inconvenience.

According to a park spokesperson, "A park ranger who was first on scene discovered a small leak in a kitchen propane line. The propane delivery system was quickly turned off and the fire was extinguished without further complication."

"Minimal damage occurred due to the quick notification and immediate response, and food service at the John Colter Ranch House Restaurant resumed by lunch time."

According to the NPS Division of Fire and Aviation Management, Grand Teton is one of less than two dozen NPS areas—almost all of them in the West—that have in-park structural fire apparatus that is owned by the agency and staffed by park personnel. "Staffed by," in most cases, means the firefighters are "collateral duty"—employees who perform other duties and don their fire gear only when needed.

This was a case when that capability paid off.

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