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August 13, 2008 1:59 pm

Area fires held at bay

Written by Tribune Staff

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The Gunbarrel fire continues to burn, but all lodges, campgrounds and trails are open at this time. However, no hiking is allowed north of U.S. 14-16-20 from Dunn to Grinnell creeks. Things were a bit warm a mile or so up the ridge from Wayfarers Chapel Saturday afternoon. Tribune photo by Gib Mathers
Estimated costs for fighting the Gunbarrel Fire rose to about $4 million by Monday, with most of that invested in protecting area structures.
Gunbarrel, about 40 miles west of Cody, off U.S. 14-16-20, was at 37,650 aces Monday. Although rain cooled the fire a little on Friday, winds increased fire activity slightly over the weekend.
Meanwhile, most of the LeHardy Fire remains inactive in Yellowstone National Park.
Mop-up continues on the Cascade fire near Red Lodge, Mont., and the Tumble Creek fire 40 miles to the west is being monitored, according to news releases from fire commanders Monday.
GunbarrelContainment is not an issue. The plan is to allow the fire to burn in remote areas to remove dead trees and protect structures on the North Fork, said Ben Brack, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain incident management team.
“This corridor, the North Fork, is very important to the people around here,” Brack said.
Winds and lower relative humidity increased fire behavior Sunday.
But the fire's behavior is normal, due to a high percentage of pine beetle-killed trees (50-70 percent) and the fact that fuels are drying out, the release said.
“This is part of the normal response of fire behavior to changing weather conditions and should not be a cause for immediate concern,” said the release.
Crews are completing contingency lines near Libby Creek and securing areas around structures along the southern perimeter of the fire. With that done, crews and engines will be able to respond quickly to threatened areas, said the release.
“The goal of management is to protect values at risk (and) allow fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem while providing for firefighter and public safety,” said incident commander Don Angell.
No campgrounds or lodges are closed due to fire, nor are any hiking trails on the south side of the highway, said Ben Brack, public information officer.
However, Brack said a closure is in effect on the north side of the highway from Dunn Creek near the forest boundary west to Grinnell Creek where it dumps into the Shoshone River.
A community meeting is scheduled at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the old Wapiti Ranger District. Details on fire activities and long-range plans will be addressed.
Approximately 200 personnel are on the fire with six engines and two helicopters.
LeHardy
Aggressive suppression took place on the edge of the LeHardy fire where it was about three miles north of the Fishing Bridge area in Yellowstone National Park, but officials are no longer overly concerned about the popular stopover.
LeHardy was estimated at 9,332 acres, with a cost of $1,327,980 Monday morning.
During aerial reconnaissance Sunday, the fire was moving slowly along the its northern flank, but a majority of the fire remains inactive.
Crews will remove trees from areas already burned and sprinklers from the Fishing Bridge area.
Crews were scheduled to begin withdrawing on Monday, and park personnel will continue to monitor the fire and take action if needed.
Smoke will be visible, especially along the northern perimeter of the fire, and officials believe the fire will increase there due to dry conditions.
Twenty personnel were working the fire Monday.
Cascade and Tumble fires
The 10,173-acre Cascade fire, six miles west of Red Lodge, Mont., is 85 percent contained, and the 380 acre Tumble Creek fire, about 40 miles west of Red Lodge is 100 percent contained, said a report Monday.
As of Sunday, the Cascade Fire had cost $8.5 million. Since the type 3 team took management of the Tumble Fire Aug. 9, the cost was estimated at $1.4 million.
Mop-up efforts were planned Monday along with cutting down scorched trees. Hot spots will be identified, and burned areas rehabilitated, the report said.
On Monday, 108 personnel were assigned to Cascade, along with three engines and two helicopters.
The Lake Fork Trail is open to Sundance Pass and the West Fork of Rock Creek roadblock at the forest boundary has been moved to Timbercrest. No travel will be permitted beyond the Basin Creek area until further notice. The Senia Camp area is closed due to safety hazards. Cabin owners in Lions Club Camp are allowed access via Lake Fork Road from the Beartooth Creek Ranger District direction.
Access to Red Lodge Mountain Resort is prohibited. Custer National Forest area closure orders includes most of the trails and back country in the West Fork drainage.