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August 27, 2008 12:47 pm

Winds blasting Gunbarrel as camp relocates closer to Cody

Written by Tribune Staff

“The winds are just howling,” Clint Dawson said Wednesday, describing the wind's rate around the Gunbarrel Fire.
Dawson is the zone fire manager for Shoshone National Forest.
In the valley — in the vicinity of the newly-relocated Gunbarrel Fire camp at Buffalo Bill State Park — the wind was gusting to 40-60 mph in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The new incident command camp is just above the reservoir west of Cody.
An aircraft flying over the fire Wednesday reported winds reaching 115 mph at 11,000 feet, Dawson said.
The fire was was spotting on the east side of 12,000-foot high Trout Peak, according to an incident report.
Wind often is the rule rather than the exception in the hills and mountains above the reservoir, but Dawson described these fierce winds as “abnormal.”
A red-flag warning was issued for the fire area again on Wednesday. That means low humidity and windy conditions likely will translate to potential fire growth and extreme fire behavior, said Mark Giacoletto, Shoshone Forest fire management officer.
As of Wednesday morning, the Gunbarrel Fire was roughly 10-12 miles west of Cody and north of U.S. 14-16-20. It had grown by 3,424 acres since Monday to a total of 57,384 acres and extended about 24 miles roughly from east to west. Lightning ignited the fire about 38 miles west of Cody on July 26.
At-risk structures on both ends of the fire were being closely monitored and defended by firefighters on the scene.
The price of managing and fighting the fire also is mounting. On Monday, the cost was an even $6.6 million. By Wednesday morning — before Wednesday's fierce winds — the price tag had grown to a little over $7.6 million.
Members of the Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team arrived Tuesday. Official transfer of command occurred Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, 349 personnel, 33 engines, five water tenders and six helicopters were on the fire. That was up from 231 personnel, 15 engines, three water tenders and four helicopters on Monday.
The difference between the previous Type II team and the new Type I team is that a Type I has a greater capacity to manage more resources, Giacoletto said.
A successful burnout operation was completed above the Elephant Head Lodge on Tuesday, reducing fuels and strengthening containment lines, said the fire report.
Yesterday the fire made advances in the Goff and Gunbarrel creek drainages where structure protection is in place. Due to the potential for the fire to spread towards Elephant Head and Goff Creek lodges, the two lodges remain under an evacuation advisory.
The fire also grew on the east side, spotting onto the east side of Trout Creek.
Wednesday was another busy day as firefighters protected homes along the east end of the fire in upper portions of the Jim Mountain, Jim Creek and Big Creek areas. Cabins and lodges on the fire's west end, in the Libby Creek area, also were under the umbrella of the firefighters' protection, said the report.
Pine beetle-killed trees could be one factor in the fire's spread, but another culprit is weather. Since the fire's ignition in July, only a small amount of rain has fallen.
Less than .25 inch was measured on one occasion, and .15 inch on another in the last 10 days. In the recent seven-day period, five were red-flag days, Giacoletto said.
“The weather has been brutal on us, to say the least,” Giacoletto said.