FLASHBACK: Buffalo Wyoming Was Saved By Airdrop In 1988
Here is the story as I heard it from the owner of the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming.
August 1988. There were already fires up on the bighorn mountains. But that was not the cause of the fire in the middle of downtown Buffalo Wyoming.
A woman had been arrested in Montana for arson. Apparently being a pyromaniac was one of several issues she had.
Eventually, she served her time and was released. Immediately she went out and set a fire somewhere in Montana.
She then made her way down into Wyoming where she tried to set a fire in Sheridan. Finally, she arrived in Buffalo and lit the Ben Franklin store on fire.
Those who visit Buffalo today will notice a cute little park in the center of town on the south side of the river. There used to be a building there. It was mostly made of wood. Easy to set fire by someone who knows what they are doing.
The local fire department used all they had but was not able to keep up with the blaze. Sparks and hot glowing ash were drifting to the rooftops of nearby stores.
A call went out to the firefighters up on the mountain.
Buffalo needed help, or they would lose the town.
The answer came quickly.
Airplanes meant to dump slurry on the mountain fire turned and came down toward the down. They flew low and slow over the blaze and dropped what they had.
Red Slurry painted the town and flowed down the river.
It worked. The building was lost, but the town was saved.
The owner of the Occidental told me that, to this day, that red stuff can still be seen on the rooftops.
Fire retardant used to smother fires, also called slurry, is a mixture of water, fertilizer, and chemicals.
It's dropped from planes and is usually a bright red color, so air crews can track what they've used and where it landed.
Each passing plane can see where the last plane dropped and plan where they will drop their load.
Slurry is not so much used to put out the fire, but to prevent it from spreading.
Wherever it stains the fire has a hard time starting there.
That is why it is usually dropped ahead of forest fires.
The video, below, was shot with a camcorder that used tape and was popular back in 1988. Back then not too many people had a way to shoot video.
Watch all the way through and you'll see a video shot from a small plane, above the town, now stained with slurry. The fire still burns but at a much lower level.
You'll also get a good look at how the fire was spreading across the town.
By the time the planes showed up, it was more than just one building that had flames on its roof.
But thanks to some quick thinking and some improvisation, the town of Buffalo Wyoming stands to this day, minus one building.
I'm not sure who shot the video or who edited this together. I'd like to thank them for preserving this event and posting it on Youtube.
I wrote these events down as they were told to me by the owner of the Occidental Hotel a few years ago. If you know more or have corrections to the story, please let me know.