By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The task of emptying a complete community in the face of a rapidly spreading wildfire is something that very few people have experience doing.
Yet the town of Hanna managed to do exactly that on Saturday without any deaths, significant injury or loss of structures — with no practice beforehand.
“The whole thing was a like a practice event that we never practiced before,” said Mayor Lois Buchanan told the Cowboy State Daily. “Everything just clicked right together.”
Hanna residents were allowed to return to their homes Sunday afternoon, after firefighters stopped the advance of the 316 Fire toward the town’s city limits.
Power to homes, stopped because of concerns about the fire, was restored in time for the storm that swept through the state Monday, bringing snow and cold temperatures.
Kim Connolly, the town’s secretary, said residents seem to be returning to their normal lives.
“I think everyone was a bit traumatized,” she said. “It’s one of those where you never think it’s going to happen and it happens.”
When the evacuation order was given, the town’s residents traveled by bus or drove themselves to Laramie, where they were put up in one of seven hotels where the Red Cross and Albany County Office Emergency Management had arranged for them to take shelter.
In the meantime, emergency crews gathered at the Hanna High School parking lot to prepare for action against the flames, said Buchanan.
“I was at the staging area and I was in awe at all the agencies involved and all the resources and how fast they came together,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever show enough gratitude for everybody and everything.”
Firefighters from across southern Wyoming joined in to fight the flames, Buchanan said, along with firefighters from Oregon and agencies from as far away as Colorado Springs.
“It was an an amazing thing,” she said. “I hope we don’t have to go through it again.”
Buchanan credited all of the firefighting forces, organizations such as construction crews working on the Rocky Mountain Power Gateway Project, the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency and Hanna Marshal Jeff Neimark for safely moving Hanna residents to shelter and stopping the flame before they reached the city limits.