Pocatello, Idaho. Thirteen months ago residents at the south end of Pocatello suffered from the Charlotte Fire, just off of Mink Creek. Sixty-six homes burned. On 27th this year, smoke erupted from near the same area, causing some brief concern. It turned out instead to be a burn in Lead Draw. Lead Draw is in the same general vicinity but about a mile upstream in a side canyon of a side canyon.

The fire was controlled on July 29. It had burned 156 acres, beginning in Lead Draw and going uphill to a shoulder ridge top of the local  landmark, Indian Mountain. The blaze burned sagebrush and other shrubs and a bit of aspen.  The area is winter range, and a good place to see deer in the springtime.

A cause has not yet been determined, but it was likely human caused in a time when lightning was starting other fires in other areas of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest south of Pocatello.

Up Lead Draw at the base of the fire. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Up Lead Draw at the base of the fire. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Our inspection showed the fire likely began next to the trail in Lead Draw near what has become an informal shooting range. Most do not shoot in the direction of the now burned mountainside, but the fire burned away brush and grass showing many cans with bullet holes there. So shooting into dry grass at the base of the mountain has to be considered as a cause.

Lead Draw has no unique features, but is heavily used by hikers, walkers, mountain bikes, motorbikes, and snowshoers and X-cross-country skiers during brief periods of heavy snow. This is because it is so close to Pocatello, with a big parking lot and accessible trail (closed road).  Looking back over a hundred years, there has always been heavy, largely unregulated use of Lead Draw, featuring the mentioned recreational activities, plus shooting, cattle grazing, a few suicides, homicides and, of course, sex.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

26 Responses to Lead Draw fire gives Pocatellans a scare, but only burns some winter range

  1. Joseph C. Allen says:

    Perhaps it was started by another jilted USFS employee burning old love letters

  2. WM says:

    We have a humdinger of a fire between Ellensburg, WA and the Columbia that started a couple days ago. The Colockum Tarps fire is pressing on, mostly in sage and high desert, but winds from the east are thereatening to push it into the timber on Wednesday, and there is a threat of thunderstorms and more wind Thursday. If I recall correctly, this is just north of an area which has had great interest from Western Watershed Projects, and grazing leases issued by WDFW. The fire has exceeded 43,000 acres (66 sq. mi) and is only about 5% controlled, and worries it won’t be stopped very easily.

    We are about 3 weeks early for fire season in Eastern WA. August is not looking so good. Will the FS and WA DNR just let things burn or attempt to suppress?

    • Immer Treue says:

      Wish I could send you rain. With depressing regularity we have been getting a day of sunlight, followed by 4-5 days of rain. You can also have the mosquitos (JB) that benefit from such atmospheric phenomena.

      • JB says:

        No thanks. There are plenty of mosquitos here (at least for my taste). I wouldn’t mind your cool weather though. Our furnace is out and while the AC works, the furnace fan won’t blow. And, of course, all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. Glad it didn’t happen last summer!

  3. zach says:

    It’s a good thing that Pocatello decided to put a fire ban in effect for that area. I could see how bad that fire had gotten from up on Slate Mountain.

  4. Mike says:

    You know, I feel bad for people in the NRM having to go through these fires every year. But man are a bunch of those people just completely idiotic when it comes to guns.

  5. JEFF E says:

    “Thirteen months ago residents at the south end of Pocatello suffered from the Charlotte Fire, just off of Mink Creek. Sixty-six homes burned.”

    what needed to be said here is that the Charlotte fire was started by an untended Bar-b-que in some ones back yard and has no, none , zilch, to due with the lead draw fire.

    Lead draw is pretty much off limits to any shooting now days due to the number of people that are constantly using it and what the fire uncovered shows the use of the area in past decades, not recently. Not to totally discount the bullet from the grassy mound theory there were at least two other fires started by lightning strikes within some miles of this fire on the same day sooooo..

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Jeff E,

      I have to disagree. The cause of Charlotte Fire that burned the houses in the Mink Creek vicinity was never determined as far as I heard, and I followed it. Its point of ignition was marked on the ground, and it was right next to Charlotte Road, burning the dry grass and front yard of the first house it came to (near the road). I decided it must have had to do with a passing vehicle; maybe a friction spark.

      I know there were thunderstorms the day the Lead Draw fire started. We called the one on Wakely Peak (ridge fire), north of Malad, ID, in because we were at Malad Pass during the T-storm. However, the Lead Draw fire appeared (from my foot observation) to have started at, or very near the bottom of the ridge where lightning is not likely to strike. It was right next to (just across the trail) from the informal shooting area.

      I was not aware that shooting was supposed to have ceased there. I shot my Glock there last fall and a number of other folks were shooting.

      If you were say 2 miles north of the Mink Creek area in south Pocatello, the smoke from the Lead Draw fire appeared to be quite near the Mink Creek home area, although the smoke was never as intense from Lead Draw. The fact that Lead Draw was 1 or 2 miles further south and maybe a half mile to east was not obvious because of the telescoping effect.

      • topher says:

        I think if your shooting up Lead Draw you’re required to walk up the trail a ways, 200 yds or something like that, not that anyone bothers. As far as shooting near Pocatello I would recommend the range up 2 1/2 Mile or my favorite, Michaud Creek Mine.

        • zach says:

          I am pretty sure I have watched people even over the last couple of weeks firing at the base of the trail.

          • topher says:

            The whole mink creek area has been pretty much infested with mountain bikers for several years so I try to refrain from shooting until bird season and only use a shotgun. With all the illegal trails these guys keep building it’s hard to keep track of where the bikers might be. It has become a real problem in this area and it would be nice to see some trail closures and better enforcement for illegal trail building.

            • Ralph Maughan says:


              I remember the Johnny Creek Fire (1987). One house was lost.

            • zach says:

              Yeah, I have noticed the new bike trails going in. So thoughtful of them. I enjoy that as much as I enjoy catching motorized dirt bikes tearing the non-motorized trails up there.

              They don’t like when I don’t get out of their way, they can go around or get off the trail.

              • topher says:

                I think there are some kind of right of way rules but I’m not sure of the order. Horses might be first followed by foot traffick ? Anyone know off the top of their head?
                I try to stay off the official trails for the most part but the game (cow) trails are quickly becoming bike trails in a couple areas.

  6. JEFF E says:

    so lets review:
    the fire destroys 66 or so homes. in an area where many of Poky’s “leading” citizens live, causing millions of dollars in damage/expenses, yet no one knows the cause.


    and absolutely no one is saying or has said the ignition point was beside the road, in fact no one is saying at all,
    yet if some one inadvertently drags a piece of chain link down the road and starts a few relatively minor fires as happened last week between Horseshoe bend and Emmett, then the cause right down to the minuet it happened is known within 24 hours. And that would be just one example of how well the cause of a fire can be determined.

    My considered opinion based on countless people that live there and have gone over the ground is an untended bar-b- que and that is what I am going with.

    • topher says:

      Lets suppose for a minute that I’m the fire chief (I’m not), and I know how the fire started (I don’t), and it was a kid with fireworks. Is it really worth ruining some kid’s life and subjecting his family to a string of lawsuits just so I can say I’ve done my job? This area was prime for wildfire with houses tucked into trees to give the illusion of privacy and solitude. While we may not know the cause of the fire, much of the blame can be laid on the homeowners for not properly maintaining the properties. The Johnny Creek fire should have been a wake-up call to anyone living in the area at the time, but was largely ignored because everyone got lucky. If I remember correctly there were no houses lost to that fire.

      • JEFF E says:

        If you read my link they say that they know that it was “NOT” fireworks that started it. Which is a kind of interesting statement in and of itself.

        • topher says:

          The information that comes from the “countless people who live there” is great if you like rumor based speculation. I have a good friend who is considered to be the foremost authority on local fires and local fire history who also happened to lose a home in the fire and while we have discussed the fire at great length he has never mentioned a barbecue.

          • JEFF E says:

            I have family that has lived in that area from the ’40s. One branch lived at the ranch that was at the now intersection of Gibson Jack and (old)Bannock hi-way. So tell me, what do you think that the now reveled lava rock structure is?

  7. Ralph Maughan says:

    Another thunderstorm came through the Pocatello/SE Idaho area yesterday, July 31.

    At least 4 fires were started. The biggest is in Wolverine Canyon, a scenic location any local person who does outdoor recreation knows. It is reported to be about 150 acres at present.

    • zach says:

      The fire chief told channel 8 they think it will be contained by tomorrow night.

    • zach says:


      On a small side note, the Schell Range camera website on your latest post says it’s off commission as of July 31. I couldn’t comment there, just a heads up. Sorry for cluttering up this post with this. Thanks.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        Thanks zach. One of the hardest things about a web cam page is keeping abreast of the changing URLs, and the addition, or deletion of the cams.

      • Ralph Maughan says:

        I went through all the links and cleaned them up, fixing some, deleting some and adding some. There are probably still a few problem web cams, however.


July 2013


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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