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July 28, 2008 1:49 pm

Fire near Goff Creek still burning

Written by Tribune Staff

The Gunbarrel Fire, in the North Absaroka Wilderness, about 38 miles west of Cody, had claimed about 575 acres as of Monday, but no structures had burned.
The lightning-caused blaze started Saturday and is burning in heavy, beetle-killed timber. It is two to three miles north of U.S. 14-16-20 between Goff and Gunbarrel creeks.
Clint Dawson, zone fire manager for the Shoshone National Forest, and Russ Wenke, administrator for Park County Fire District No. 2, are taking daily helicopter flights over the fire, said Susie Douglas, writer/editor for the Shoshone Forest.
Due to the rugged terrain, no personnel are being sent to the fire at this point, but they are monitoring it closely, Douglas said.
“We're going to develop a long-range management plan,” Douglas said.
She said Forest Service experts will use a computer model to predict where the fire will likely burn. If any structures are threatened, personnel and resources will be dispatched.
Cody has been smoky, and more haze is anticipated. To allay concerns, a public meeting will take place in the next day or so, Douglas said.
In wilderness areas, naturally-ignited fires often are left to burn.
“It is all in the North Absaroka Wilderness,” Douglas said.
Goals are making sure the fire remains within the wilderness, monitoring smoke and being alert for the possibility of the fire advancing toward structures or the highway, Douglas said.
There are no people in the area and Douglas said there is little recreational use in the rugged, thick-timbered expanse. The only known use is during bighorn sheep hunting season in September, Douglas said.
There are no road or other closures.
“We're wisely picking our strategy,” said District Ranger Terry Root.
“Based on the location, rough terrain and heavy timber, the fire is inaccessible to equipment and unsafe for firefighters,” he said.
With Monday's hot weather, the fire was expected to be active and had the potential to produce a lot of smoke.
An incident management team arrived in Cody Monday to help develop a management plan for the fire.