Wyoming families deal with losses to Kara Creek fire

Maria Tussing
Digital & Sections Editor
The Kara Creek fire in northeastern Wyoming burned more than 12,000 acres, including one home, and killed 16 head of cattle. Photo courtesy

It was a 100-foot wall of flame herded by the Wyoming wind that chased the Bryant family off the mountain at 70 miles per hour. They left behind their home, heirlooms and three horses.

When they came back, the only thing standing was their mailbox.

“I cried, I screamed. I was angry. I had mixed emotions. But for the most part I cried and cried and cried,” said Mandi Bryant.

“We lost everything. The only thing we have left is the clothes we had on the day the fire happened and the animals. It burned all the pasture and hay ground.”

When they knew the fire was coming they put all their important documents in their 40-gun gun safe. It didn’t help.

The Kara Creek Fire in northeast Wyoming was started by lightning on June 24 and burned more than 12,000 acres over five days. It was listed as 100 percent contained on June 29.

The Bryant home was the only one that burned, though several other outbuildings were lost, including the Bryant’s shop, which held the feed, vehicles, tools and all the rest of the necessities for life on a ranch. A chicken coop was spared.

Mandi and her husband, Preston, moved to the place in the timber near Moorcroft, Wyoming with their three kids, Jasmyne, 19, Blake Maxwell, 17, and Hayden, 10, in February of 2015. Now they have to start all over again.

Between the evacuation efforts of the Bryants and their friends, and the work of the firefighters, the only animals they lost were two guinea pigs that were in the house. The eight horses, three pigs, one goat, three rabbits, three dogs and three cats that are 4-H projects or rodeo stock all made it alive. And now they need food and shelter—as do their owners.

“We’re trying to figure out where to go, but we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bryant said.

Friends and members of the Moorcroft community have helped a lot, providing places for the animals to stay and donating feed. The Bryants met on Thursday with their insurance agent.

“We’re planning to rebuild,” Bryant said, but they are still trying to deal with the reality of what happened. “My littlest one (Hayden) has kind of accepted it, but he kind of hasn’t. He doesn’t like to go out there or talk about it.”

Several miles away, K’La Davis and her family lost 10 cows—two that hadn’t calved yet–and six calves, plus all their leased hay ground and summer pasture. Their home was in the evacuation area, but they decided to stay and do what they could to help. “We stayed and made sure we had the life box ready to go.” Thanks to the efforts of her husband, brothers and firefighters, the fire didn’t get closer than two miles.

Some of the cows had run off a cliff, she said, so the ones that survived were “pretty banged up.”

When she looks at what the fire left behind, Davis says, “You think seeing is believing, but you still can’t believe it. It’s pretty devastating.”

Davis said they estimate the loss of their cattle and hay at about $30,000. “We’re thinking about selling our cows. We might have to start all over.”

Both Bryant and Davis said they’re thankful for all the community support and the efforts of all the firefighters and volunteers, who kept the fire from being worse than it was.

Accounts have been set up for the Bryant family at 4G ranch supply in Moorcroft. the W Bar Feed and Ranch Supply in Hulett, Wyoming and online at