By Kevin Hunt
Jun 24, 2017

Fire Around Thunder Ridge Burns on But Camp is Still There

There is still fire in the sky around our Camp Thunder Ridge but the camp is still there.  And for that we can be grateful.  Miracles still do happen and we got one!

Fire broke out at Brian Head just below the ski resort.  That was a week ago – on Saturday, June 17. On that fateful day my wife, Lou, and I were the only camp staff evacuated from Thunder Ridge Scout Camp where we were to serve for the summer. Since then, things have not been the same – nor will they be. The fire has been atrocious and is still raging wildly out of control.

Here are some photos of the fire – taken by Brad Hancock of Sunstonephotos.  Though of a major catastrophe, they are beautiful and show the majesty and terror of  a wild fire out of control.

Brian Head fire in the night sky. Photo @ 2017 and courtesy of Sunstonephotos

The Brian Head fire rages on. Photograph @ 2017 Sunstonephotos

Brian Head Wall of Smoke above Parowan @2017 Sunstonephotos

After we were evacuated from Camp Thunder Ridge, I took two camp staff men – Jason and Michael – and we headed up to work for the week at Camp Scofield – near Price in east-central Utah.  As with all Thunder Ridge staff and campers, we continued to follow the fire and its deadly raging around Brian Head and Camp Thunder Ridge.  All week long we wondered how the camp was faring through the fire.

Then we read the article Brian Head Fire Causes Minimal Damage to Scout Camp written by Kevin Jenkins of The Spectrum in St. George. There was good and bad news.

“As flames closed in on an Iron County Boy Scout camp Tuesday night near Brian Head, wildland firefighters entered the grassy bowl atop the mountain and began working to protect the structures and equipment abandoned by the youth service organization. …

So, the bad news was that the fire hit Thunder Ridge. And then the good news. Says Jenkins: “It kind of swept around both sides of the camp and kept on going. It burned some trees and it knocked some trees down on the road. But we think the damages are minimal. … They were in there fighting it from inside that bowl.”

And after this article was published, we were all left to figure out what all that all meant.  Were the campsites burned? What about the camp structures? And the large nylon staff “Bare Bones” tents? Did they burn? And what about the stuff in them?” And for me personally, “Did I lose my collection of hand-carved bolo ties – carved by Bill Burch and many of his proteges … and my wife’s purse?”

The questions continued to loom through the week.  And thoughts of it all kind of made us all depressed and wondering. Then as our week ended at Scofield Scout Camp, we headed back to the land of Dixie.  We went south on Highway 89, then east on I-70 to I-15.  And we could see the monstrous fire clouds from about Richfield – almost a hundred miles away.
The three of us still had a majority of our camping gear – and much more – on the mountain at Thunder Ridge. We went to the road block at the Parowan cemetery at the edge of town – and at the start of Highway 143 up to Brian Head.
We hoped that law officials might let us up into the camp. We went to the ICP for the fire.  (And I even understood this term after helping teach Search and Rescue at Camp Scofield – that is Incident Command Post). We drove into the ICP and were amazed at the organization, order and the cleanliness of the massive rescue effort – and the perfection in uniform of the firefighters. We were so grateful to the many groups of firefighters who had worked so selflessly to save our Thunder Ridge.

The ICP headquarters at Parowan for Brian Head Firefighting

Parowan ICP Headquarters for Brian Head Firefighting

We talked to a few folks – including one officer who had kind of taken on our Camp Thunder Ridge as his personal project.  His pride in protecting and preserving the camp was quickly evident.  We were directed to the ICP Commander.  Hearing our story, he said that we could not go up to the camp.  But he did say that officials from the Boy Scouts had been escorted up to the camp a while before.  And he said, “Maybe if you wait at the corner, you might see them coming down.”

So, we went to the corner of the blockade and talked for a while with the Sheriff officer there.  (And I found it interesting that my aunt, Jeanne Matthews Hunt had been his first grade school teacher out on the desert north of Beryl Junction and that he knew all of my cousins who lived out there.)

And then we saw them!  A great sight!  The council leaders came down toward us in a grand caravan.   They had a trailer on a truck and several vehicles.  The camp ranger was able to get his large RV (undamaged by fire) off of the mountain – as well as his/the camp’s 4-wheel ATV (used to service the camp) out of camp on a trailer.  Larry Hall, our Shooting Sports Director, drove the camp truck and in it was a multitude of black plastic bags.  He had gone into the staff tents (which had fire retardant all over them – and a few coal ember holes – but otherwise miraculously saved by the firemen) and had stuffed staff bedding and other nearby stuff – into the black bags.

Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson with truck full of black bags full of staff gear from Brian Head Fire near Thunder Ridge Scout Camp

Larry stated that the staff tents were all okay.  He said that a few had minor holes from flying embers and that the tents were covered in a bright red from the fire retardant that was used to protect them.

Red fire retardant on saved staff tipi and tents at Camp Thunder Ridge after Brian Head fire.

And my own personal miracle was that Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson, was able to get my Bill Burch bolo tie collection  – which was saved and retrieved from my tent – along with my wife’s purse which she had left in the tent.    Wow!  Were we ever excited and grateful!  We don’t know if Larry was able to get our bedding and other stuff but I guess time will tell.

The council team (with onlookers Kevin and other camp staff) who “rescued” staff gear from Camp Thunder Ridge and the Brian Head fire

I took Jason to his home in Cedar City.  I then drove with Michael and got him connected to his family at the Pilot Station at Bloomington.   (He is from Beaver Dam, Arizona.)

I drove to the home of my son in Washington.  As I got to K.C.’s place, I knocked on the door and as my wife, Lou, came to the door, I stood there with my bolo ties in one hand and her purse in the other.

Kevin Hunt coming home from Camp Thunder Ridge/Brian Head fire with hand-carved bolo tie collection and his wife’s purse

She said that was exactly how she had pictured me arriving.  She was very glad to see me and the valuables saved from the fire.  She later commented that she could smell the smoke on her purse from across the room.  I said, “Just keep the smell and be grateful!”

And we are deeply grateful to all who helped to save and protect our beloved Camp Thunder Ridge.  Thank you firefighters and all at the ICP – and the many agencies from far and wide.  Thank you! Thank you for the miracles!  Scouts of generations will forever be grateful to you!

Selected photos @2017 and courtesy of photographer, Brad Hancock, of Sunstonephotos.  You can view his photos at or connect on Instagram @Sunstonephotography.

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  

Author:  Kevin Hunt | #thescoutblogger, Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director

See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger.  Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!  Find Kevin on Facebook at:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.

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