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August 27, 2008 12:41 pm

Unruly fire

Written by Tribune Staff

Let ‘er burn abandoned; suppression now underway
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Rocky Mountain Fire Use Management Team Incident Commander Bill Hahnenberg outlines Gunbarrel fire's progress Friday at a public meeting.
Tribune photo by Gib Mathers
Due to the Gunbarrel fire's growth and its threat to homes in the Jim Mountain area, the “fire use fire” plan to allow it to burn has been nixed — suppression efforts were underway Monday.
“The overall objective is confine and contain any future (fire) growth,” said Information Officer Randy Moench of the Rocky Mountain Fire Use Management Team Monday.
Monday, the fire was nearly 54,000 acres. There are 164 miles of uncontrolled perimeter and 25 miles of completed fire line along the southern line. The fire is approximately 24 miles long, Moench said.
“In recognizing of the growing focus on protecting private land, the incident objective of allowing fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem has been dropped,” said Moench's Monday morning e-mailed update.
Moench said computer progression models don't show the fire reaching the Sunlight area. However, the fire is expected to burn in Trout Creek Basin and Rattlesnake Mountain areas.
Moench said fire updates will be posted at the top of the Dead Indian scenic viewing area next to Chief Joseph Highway (Wyo. 296).
Monday, Gunbarrel was expected to head a few miles northeast and crews were busy defending homes in the Jim Mountain area and cabins and lodges on the fire's west end near Libby Creek, said Moench's report.
Due to windy conditions, a red flag warning was in effect Monday, beginning at noon, and continuing until 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. Moench said smoke plumes were expected.
Using aircraft was on the agenda yesterday, but the concern was that windy conditions that afternoon would ground air tankers or helicopters.
Warm and dry conditions were also in the forecast.
“It is going to be a hot afternoon,” Moench said.
A Type II team is working Gunbarrel now, but a Type I team has been requested due to the fire's growth potential. Moench said the Type I team was expected to arrive today (Tuesday).
The fire is at 53,960 acres at a cost of $6.6 million. That is $122 per acre. Monday's personnel totaled 231. There are four helicopters, 15 engines and three water tenders.