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September 08, 2011 8:30 am

Fires smoke across northwest Wyoming

Written by Gib Mathers

There are more fires than you can shake a cinder at in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area, but only two are relatively big in this neck of the woods.

Yellowstone’s Heart Complex

Under the umbrella of the Heart Complex fires burning in Yellowstone is the Point Fire burning at an estimated 1,100 acres on the eastern side of Yellowstone Lake.

Lightning lit it Aug. 25.

As a precautionary measure, the Thorofare trail has been closed from the Nine Mile trailhead to one mile south of the fire area. The trailhead is about one mile west of Lake Butte Drive on the East Entrance Road.

The National Park Service is working with outfitters to help them re-route their pack trains, said park spokesman Al Nash.

People can still enter the Thorofare from the Eagle Creek trailhead to the east, the Heart Lake Trail from the west or the South Boundary trail from the south, Nash said.

The forecast is for no significant wind or rain in the next few days, so neither increased nor decreased fire activity is expected, Nash said.

He said he would not be surprised if there was some continued fire activity until a significant snow storm smothers the fire.

The Point Fire is the biggest fire in Yellowstone this year, with the roughly 18-acre Gibbon Fire the second-largest, Nash said.

Yellowstone’s three other current wildfires are the Ouzel, Huckleberry and Pitchstone fires, all one acre or less in size.

Thus far, Yellowstone has had 18 fires this year — a typical fire season, Nash said.

Hole in the Wall Fire

The threat to Clark from the Hole in the Wall Fire — seven miles to the west — is minimal, although firefighters will not consider locals completely safe until the fire is fully enclosed.

The 6,098-acre fire was 95 percent contained Wednesday.

“There is still a potential threat to residents in both Clark and Red Lodge (Mont.),” said Barb Pitman, Hole in the Wall fire information officer.

Pitman said the risk is very, very small, but managers won’t consider those folks totally safe until the fire is 100 percent contained.

The fire is burning timber and brush at higher elevations. Pine beetle-killed Douglas fire and lodgepole pine, juniper and sagebrush are burning in lower elevations, said a Wednesday update from fire managers on Inciweb.

The fire increased by 92 acres between Monday and Tuesday evening. It is burning primarily in Custer National Forest, but there are a few isolated hotspots in the Shoshone Forest, Pitman said.

The Type III Team is concentrating on monitoring the fire, including the northeast edge in the rugged terrain below the Beartooth Plateau, said Inciweb.

Burning continues in the northwest arm below Line Lake.

More than 1,500 feet of hose has been laid with gravity-fed sprinklers along the northeast portion of the fire. Pitman said the system was installed because it’s not safe to deploy firefighters in the extremely rugged and hazardous terrain.

One helicopter remains available to make water bucket drops as needed and to ferry firefighters to and from the fire, Pitman said.

Two engines, one Type I  21-person Hotshot crew, and 10 overhead support staff totaling 60 personnel are also on the fire, said the Inciweb update.

Line Creek Plateau, Corral Creek Trail 9, Maurice Creek Trail 6, North Grove Trail, Face of the Mountain 7, Robertson Draw 5, Forest Road 123, Line Creek Road and South Grove Road are closed. All other trails remain open at this time, said Inciweb.

A Burned Area Emergency Response team began assessing the fire area Wednesday. They will survey the area for potential threats to the land and wildlife after the fire is out. For example, the team will assess the potential danger of erosion or downstream sediment buildup, threats to fish, other aquatic species and endangered species, archeological impacts and the threat of invasive weeds, Pitman said.

Other fires

Other fires based on data gleaned from Inciweb are:

• Norton Point Wildfire in the Shoshone National Forest was at 19,300 acres as of Wednesday. Lightning ignited the fire July 22, 24 miles north of Dubois.

• Red Rock Fire Wildfire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest was at 8,555 acres Wednesday. Lightning ignited the fire 20 miles northeast of Jackson.

• Nowlin Fire Wildfire in the Teton National Forest was at 1,970 acres as of Sunday. It is burning in the Teton Wilderness on the Buffalo Ranger District. Lightning was the cause but the date of the fire’s ignition is unknown.

• Reservoir Fire in the Bighorn National Forest was at 1 acre Sept. 2. Lightning ignited the fire about one-half mile northwest of Shell Reservoir Aug. 28.

The fire danger in Custer National Forest, which includes the Pryor Mountains, is rated high while the danger in Yellowstone and the Shoshone and Bighorn National Forests is rated at very high.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link September 12, 2011 2:51 pm posted by Roberta Edwards

    Is any of the caters hiring cooks? Some of the cooks work more than one fire and are burned out and need a rest.

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