Team Fighting Mullen Fire Shorthanded Due To “Critical Shortage” In Firefighting Resources

There is a "critical shortage" in firefighting resources right now due to wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington, an official said Tuesday night during a Mullen Fire virtual update.

Ellen Fike

September 23, 20203 min read

Mullen fire 9 21 20
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Firefighters battling a 13,500-acre blaze in the Medicine Bow National Forest are having to deal with a “critical shortage” in firefighting resources caused by wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington, an official said Tuesday night during an update on the Mullen Fire.

Chris Zoller, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team planning operations manager, was one of many presenters during the update on the fire burning in Medicine Bow National Forest on Tuesday. The team took over command of the fire early Tuesday morning, with the intent to bring in more resources to combat the fire.

Basically every resource available (ground crews, aircraft, etc.) is in short supply due to the wildfires raging farther west. But Zoller noted that the team has secured some aircraft to help with the fire, such as helicopters to help with structure protection.

The presentation also included information about what to do in case of an evacuation, closures in the forest and about the history of the fire. The cause was still unknown as of Tuesday night.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos told Cowboy State Daily 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to provide it as quickly as possible, but want to make sure everything we release is accurate and not immediately out-of-date.”

Only 2% of the fire had been contained as of Tuesday evening, with 13,504 acres affected.

The fire has crossed the 500 Road on the north and 511 Road on the northeast, according to fire tracking website Inciweb. On the south side, the fire has crossed the 512 Road and is active in the Sheep Creek drainage.

It continued to burn Tuesday in extremely rugged terrain in an area with live blowdown and beetle-killed deadfall, so extreme fire behavior is possible. Strong, gusty winds could push the fire in multiple directions, but are predicted to push it to the east and northeast.

As of the Tuesday update, aerial firefighters successfully defended the Rambler community by applying a flame retardant along roads where prior fire mitigation projects reduced the available fuels.

Active fire behavior is expected to continue into Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Some firefighters have been assigned to a night shift to continue operations.

The Lake Creek, Rambler, Rob Roy and Keystone communities and the 507C cabin grouping have been evacuated.

A pre-evacuation notice has been issued for the Centennial Valley, including private land along Fox Creek Road, the Albany and Centennial communities extending northwest along Highway 130 and all areas west of Highway 11 in the valley.

Ground and aerial operations continue to work on slowing the fire growth toward private properties on the west, east and north side of the perimeter.

Firefighters are assessing structures in the evacuated areas nearest the fire and preparing to implement defenses to protect those structures.

A temporary flight restriction is now in effect for the fire area, which applies to all private aircraft, including drones.

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Ellen Fike