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August 22, 2013 9:12 am

Fires rage across region

Written by CJ Baker

Red Lodge residents and tourists watch the Rock Creek Fire Tuesday night. Brody Louwagie of Fargo, N.D., surveys the fire before heading home from a family vacation. Red Lodge residents and tourists watch the Rock Creek Fire Tuesday night. Brody Louwagie of Fargo, N.D., surveys the fire before heading home from a family vacation. Tribune photo by Kevin Kinzley

Firefighter injured, homes evacuated, threatened as smoke makes way into Powell Valley

Disruptive wildfires continued to burn across Wyoming and southern Montana Wednesday.

Fires forced the evacuation of several homes and a resort near Red Lodge, Mont., on Tuesday and the temporary closure of one of Yellowstone National Park’s major roads.

The two wildfires are among roughly a dozen burning in the region and among many in the West that have brought smoke to Powell. The Rock Creek Fire started Tuesday afternoon several miles south of Red Lodge and quickly burned through 500 acres. One unidentified firefighter suffered non-life-threatening during the initial attack on the blaze. Three homes were evacuated and additional homeowners in the area were warned to be ready to leave.

Heavy air tankers dropped fire retardant to slow the Rock Creek Fire’s growth on Tuesday. Roughly 90 firefighting personnel, 20 fire engines and two bulldozers were battling the fire as of Wednesday morning and more resources were en route. The source of the fire is unknown, fire managers said, but is believed to be human-caused.

Over in Yellowstone National Park, Tuesday afternoon activity on the 7,500-acre Alum Fire prompted park managers to close the road through Hayden Valley, which connects Fishing Bridge and Canyon Village.

The Park Service re-opened the road Wednesday morning, but warned it “can be closed at any time with little warning” if public safety is threatened. The Alum Fire had been burning less than a mile away from the roadway.

Three other lightning-caused fires were burning in the park, but all other Yellowstone roads, park entrances, lodging, stores, campgrounds and other visitor services remained open.

The largest fire in the area is the Hardluck Fire, burning in a remote portion of the Shoshone National Forest. Estimated at roughly 24,600 acres on Wednesday, the fire is about 52 miles southwest of Cody, around five miles beyond the end of the South Fork Road.

Shoshone managers say they have some concern about the Hardluck Fire continuing to creep north towards the South Fork.

Firefighters — among some 30 personnel assigned to the fire — have prepared some holding lines near Aspen Creek as a potential place to stop the fire’s northern spread.

The Forest Service does not plan to try to protect a cluster of old cabins south of that point, near Needle Creek.

“We don’t know if the fire will go that way or not, but they’re not historic, they’re not eligible for historic listing, so just for firefighters’ safety reasons, we’re not going to take any extra effort to protect those,” said fire information officer Carrie Christman.

Managers were hoping some rain and higher humidity could help the effort on Wednesday afternoon.

Also in the Shoshone, around 42 firefighters were continuing to work to check the growth of the Lost Lake Fire. The 95-acre blaze is burning in difficult-to-access, rugged terrain southeast of Cooke City.

A significant area around the Lost Lake Fire has been closed to the public because the fire has been jumping from patch to patch.

For more information on the fires in the region, visit www.inciweb.org.

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