Scouts help fire fight as blazes grow near Pinedale, Cody

Scouts help fire fight as blazes grow near Pinedale, Cody

31 July 2008

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USA — Wyoming’s two major wildfires grew substantially Wednesday, as Boy Scouts came to the aid of firefighters in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

About 1,000 members of the Boy Scouts of America who are doing forest restoration projects nearby stepped in to help with the New Fork Lakes fire, about 19 miles north of Pinedale.

The blaze started when a campfire got out of control late Monday or early Tuesday. It grew from 40 acres Tuesday afternoon to more than 1,500 acres that evening. As of Wednesday evening the blaze had charred more than 2,000 acres of wilderness, fueled by dry, windy weather and beetle-killed trees, said Mary Cernicek, spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton.

So far there have been no road or trail closures. Firefighters have established an incident command post at a Boy Scout camp near New Fork Lakes.

Several volunteer Boy Scouts from the Order of the Arrow are now working in the fire cache, which is the warehouse of fire supplies and materials that are circulated whenever a large forest fire breaks out.

“It is a great help to have the extra hands,” said fire cache Manager Heidi Zardus. “They are helping me get the orders filled and the supplies shipped out in record time.”

Firefighters are trying to keep the fire moving into the wilderness and away from private land, Cernicek said. Fire officials do not have an estimate for when the fire will be contained, she said.

The Scout are scheduled to work on the Bridger-Teton until Friday, completing various service projects.

Meanwhile, the Gunbarrel Fire, about 40 miles west of Cody, also took off, growing from 1,200 acres to about 4,100 acres as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, an official said.

The same conditions fueling the New Fork Lakes fire — hot afternoon temperatures, low humidity and frequent wind gusts — helped spread the Gunbarrel blaze through beetle-killed pine trees Wednesday afternoon, said Marty Sharp, fire information officer for the Shoshone National Forest.

“We kind of expected that today because of the weather conditions,” Sharp said.

There has been concern the fire might turn downhill toward recreation areas, but the blaze hasn’t threatened any of the nearby lodges yet, he said.

“It’s still burning in the direction we’ve wanted it to go, to the northeast,” Sharp said. “That whole landscape up there is filled with beetle-killed trees, so there’s an awful lot of fuel up there. And we’ve been drying out pretty fast.”

The wildfire has been steadily burning up the Gunbarrel and Goff creek drainages, according to the interagency fire management team.

The fire danger rating throughout the Shoshone National Forest is high to very high, Sharp said.

In both the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park, the fire rating has been elevated, as of this morning, to very high.

Recent weather conditions have increased the potential for intense fire activity, forest officials said Wednesday.

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