Firefighters douse a small blaze near Interstate 80 on Sept. 14, 2020. (Mike Vanata)

Photographer Mike Vanata was zooming down Interstate 80 on Sept. 14 — heading home to Laramie from Jackson — when he came across a roadside fire. Flames were burning through grass next to the pavement. 

The fire was about the size of a tennis court, he said, and uncontrolled. Nobody was in sight. 

Vanata pulled over. He was driving a rental vehicle, and didn’t have gear to fight a blaze. So he attempted to flag down other drivers. 

Many kept right on driving. “Nobody would stop,” he said. Eventually, a Wyoming Department of Transportation employee pulled over. He had shovels. The two men went to work beating out flames and shoveling dirt on the flames, Vanata said. 

Sheriff’s deputies showed up, and then firefighters arrived. Vanata captured this image as three of the latter extinguished the last of the blaze. 

Vanata does not know what caused the fire, but suspects a cigarette butt or sparks emitted from a passing vehicle ignited the roadside vegetation. 

Support Wyoming photography — donate to WyoFile today

With smoky skies, historic blazes on the West coast and a wildfire growing in southeast Wyoming, the 2020 wildfire season is shaping up to be one of the most consequential of modern times. 

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

Leave a comment

Want to join the discussion? Fantastic, here are the ground rules: * Provide your full name — no pseudonyms. WyoFile stands behind everything we publish and expects commenters to do the same. * No personal attacks, profanity, discriminatory language or threats. Keep it clean, civil and on topic. *WyoFile does not fact check every comment but, when noticed, submissions containing clear misinformation, demonstrably false statements of fact or links to sites trafficking in such will not be posted. *Individual commenters are limited to three comments per story, including replies.

Your email address will not be published.