By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest is likely to grow in size this week due to strong, gusty winds and dry weather, according to forest officials.
The U.S. Forest Service announced this on Monday, as well as noting there is a red flag warning in place for the region, which is a concern. The winds could push the fire in multiple directions, but will likely end up moving east and northeast, the Forest Service said.
The fire had affected 13,835 acres as of Monday morning. In addition to the Savage Run Wilderness, the fire is established in the Platte River Wilderness.
Available fuels and the region’s topography could let the fire make a run up Mullen Creek headwaters into Douglas Creek and Middle Fork Little Laramie, the agency said.
Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that a “Type II” management assessment team will arrive Tuesday to assume management of the fire.
“Basically, they come in to assess the damage and what’s going on and then bring in the appropriate resources to combat the fire,” he explained.
The assessment teams usually consist of around 30 members, but can quickly grow to 50 or 100 people with additional resources. Voos said the group won’t be as large this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but its members will still likely be in the area for about two weeks.
On Sunday, ground and aerial operations were successful in containing 2% of the fire on the west side. A 100-person crew is working the fire, while helicopters, air tankers and single-engine air tankers are working the fire’s edges.
The fire has grown significantly since it was first reported on Thursday. The cause was still unknown as of Monday morning and Voos couldn’t report specifics of the investigation.
“We’re looking for tips on what might have happened, especially firsthand knowledge,” he said. “We know the general area of where the fire started, but due to its complexity, we haven’t been able to get an investigator in there yet.”
All members of the public, including campers and hunters, were advised to leave the area due to the possibility for extreme fire behavior.
Fire growth wasn’t as intense as expected over the weekend, with mainly interior burning and some expansion around the middle of the burn. The fire slowed after spreading outside of the wilderness.
On Sunday, the Albany County Emergency Management Agency requested evacuation of the Keystone area, which included Keystone proper, lower Keystone, Langford/Ricker, Moore’s Gulch and the 507C cabin grouping.
A pre-evacuation notice was also issued for the Centennial Valley, including the private land along Fox Creek Road, the communities of Albany, Centennial, extending northwest to the Snowy Range along Highway 130 and all areas west of Highway 11 in the valley.
The Rambler and Rob Roy areas have also been evacuated.
The fire originated in the Savage Run Wilderness area of the forest in Carbon County.
Portions of the forest have been closed due to the fire and Voos noted that while the closures are frustrating for the public, they have occurred in the interest of safety.
“We don’t take this closure lightly,” he said. “We only do it because we feel the fire has the potential to impact certain areas. We realize people are looking for immediate information on the fire, and we’re trying to provide it as quickly as possible, but want to make sure everything we release is accurate and not immediately out-of-date.”