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August 13, 2008 2:03 pm

Gunbarrel grows, other area fires slow

Written by Tribune Staff

The Gunbarrel Fire on the North Fork of the Shoshone River has grown, but Cascade, Tumble Creek and LeHardy fires have slowed significantly.
Gunbarrel rising
Significant growth of the Gunbarrel Fire occurred on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday, according to official updates Wednesday.
The 41,000-acre fire, about 40 miles west of Cody, is burning on the north side of U.S. 14-16-20. The fire is burning in timber consisting of 50-80 percent beetle-killed spruce and fir trees.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire had grown by more than 3,450 acres Since Monday's update.
To date, about $4.4 million has been spent fighting the fire.
Growth took place Tuesday evening when islands on Turret and Grizzly creeks ignited, said the report.
Throughout Tuesday, crews labored to remove fuels on south side of the highway near Kitty Creek.
The update said similar fuel reduction projects have occurred around 160 structures on the edge of the North Absaroka Wilderness area.
The firefighting effort is considered preparation — removing trees and brush, installing sprinklers and hose-lays, or running fire hose from a water source to the protection location, said Ben Brack, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain incident management team.
Preparing lodges and cabins can protect these areas for this season or safeguard them from future fire seasons. Brack called it a proactive approach.
The management plan recognizes 342 structures in the area and outlines specific actions should the fire reach predetermined points.
“Firefighters will continue with structural hazard fuels reduction, should the fire pose a more direct threat in the future,” said the report.
The highway remains open but could be smoky, so officials are requesting motorist to exercise caution and to turn on their headlights.
There are 166 personnel, including one 20-person hot shot crew, six engines and one light, one medium and one heavy helicopter.
The lightning-ignited fire began July 26.
A community meeting took place Wednesday morning so officials could share information with locals, Brack said.
Part of the plan entails allowing the fire to burn in undeveloped areas and thus cleanse the forest of dead trees to usher in a new generation of forest. The other part is protecting the public, firefighters and values. Values are the structures on the North Fork and the Yellowstone Highway so folks can safely travel and stop to and from Yellowstone/Cody, Brack said.
“We will continue to be diligent and manage this fire with caution — firefighter and public safety remains our No. 1 priority,” said Incident Commander Don Angell.
Cascade: no significant growth; Tumble, contained
No significant growth has been reported on the Cascade Fire, about six miles west of Red Lodge, Mont.
On Wednesday morning, it was 85 percent contained and had burned 10,173 acres. On Monday, the same number of burned acres was reported.
No significant growth has been reported since Aug. 4.
About 40 personnel remain on the scene with a crew and one engine guarding the fire's circumference.
The fire began July 26. Its cause remains under investigation.
The 620-acre lightning-induced Tumble Creek Fire, about 40 miles west of Red Lodge is 100 percent contained. It began Aug. 1. There are no personnel on the fire, but a daily reconnaissance flight from the Cascade command is monitoring the fire.
The last official update said Cascade had cost $8.5 million, and Tumble, $1.4 million, since Cascade personnel took management Aug. 9.
LeHardy Fire
A power line is the suspected culprit in the LeHardy Fire, which ignited July 30, about three miles north of Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park.
There no longer is a threat to the Fishing Bridge area, and most crews have departed, although the 9,332-acre fire is being monitored.
“On Aug. 11, firefighters removed the sprinkler system around the Fishing Bridge visitor service area, as it is no longer threatened by the fire. All remaining out-of-area resources were demobilized,” said a park service report Monday.
The perimeter of the fire is 23 miles. Management will confine about 17 miles of fire in the back country northeast of Lake Junction. Additional fire suppression efforts will be made as necessary, the report said.
A little more than $1.3 million has been spent on the fire.
“This is the last update unless there is a significant change in fire behavior,” said the report.