Conditions favor flames as crews battle blazes

Conditions favor flames as crews battle blazes

4 August 2008

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USA — Hot, dry weather during the weekend did little to help firefighters battling wildland fires in northwestern Wyoming.

The Gunbarrel Fire about 40 miles west of Cody in Shoshone National Forest had grown to about 22,000 acres by Sunday, the third day in a row of red-flag fire weather warnings for strong, dry wind.

Almost 150 people were working full time on the Gunbarrel Fire, including two crews and five engines that arrived Saturday. It was zero percent contained Sunday.

Only one empty doghouse was burned Saturday, while the Elephant’s Head Lodge reopened with the understanding that it could be evacuated again at any time. The fire remains stalled on a hill above the lodge. The Absaroka Lodge reopened only to employees. Officials encouraged residents, campers and other people along the North Fork Highway between the east border of the national forest and Chimney Rock to be prepared in case evacuations become necessary.

A road up Moss Creek remained closed Sunday.

Lightning started the Gunbarrel Fire on June 26. It is burning heavy dead and down spruce and fir and moving north and northeast.

In Yellowstone National Park, the LeHardy Fire grew to more than 4,200 acres during the weekend with low humidity and gusty wind. It was about 5 percent contained Sunday afternoon.

Visitors lined the roads to take pictures of the impressive smoke columns and fire activity, according to park officials.

The fire was moving northeast into the backcountry away from Fishing Bridge in mature lodgepole pine and spruce/fir forest. Hotshots and engine crews, with the help of water drops, were reinforcing a control line along the section of the fire on the west bank of the Yellowstone River. About 100 people were working on it.

“This is a long-term fire,” Joe Krish, incident commander for the LeHardy Fire, said in a release. “We expect it to be with us for awhile and are currently developing a long-range strategy.”

Park officials say there is no risk to visitors and all park entrance and seasonal services are open. Some backcountry trails remain temporarily closed. Information is available at all of the park’s backcountry offices or by calling 307-344-2160.

A downed power line is believed to have sparked the LeHardy Fire on Wednesday about three miles north of Fishing Bridge.

In Bridger-Teton National Forest, the New Fork Lakes Fire, about 19 miles north of Pinedale, grew to about 9,000 acres and was 9 percent contained.

About 160 people were working on the New Fork Lakes Fire, which was burning timber stands and bug-killed lodgepole pine.

Officials say the fire was caused by an unattended campfire Tuesday.

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