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Mullen Fire

Even After Record-Breaking Low Temps And Snow, Mullen Fire Not Out

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It’s astonishing with all the cold weather in the area but these wildfires are tough — really tough — to put out.

Even after the region plunged into sub-zero temperatures and a foot of snow, the Mullen Fire is still smoldering.

And it will continue to smolder.

The latest update from the Mullen firefighting team is the round of snow the area had over the last few days won’t melt until spring.

That’s great news. But the fire — despite all of this — is still alive.

“You might be wondering if the Mullen Fire is out,” the team wrote on Facebook. “The short answer is that this blast of winter weather has been enough to cool down the fire, but not put it out.”

The good news is the firefighters expect little or no growth in the size of the fire.

“But some isolated areas inside the fire perimeter with smoldering heavy fuels are likely to produce smoke and occasional flare-ups,” they said.

That’s because clearing skies and a warming and drying trend is in the forecast for another week.

As a result, fire personnel will continue to patrol the fire and work on suppression repair over the next week or longer, they said.

When might it finally be extinguished?

“Southeast Wyoming and Northwestern Colorado have been in a prolonged severe to extreme drought this summer and fall,” they said. “Consequently, larger fuels have been extremely dry for months. It will take sustained heavy snowfall this winter to completely extinguish all hot spots.”

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Mullen Fire At 81% Containment, Snow Should Help

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

While the Mullen Fire is at 81% containment, the work to subdue the fire isn’t completely done, so crews will spend the weekend monitoring hot spots and repairing damage from fire suppression efforts over the last month.

Andrew Gray, public information officer for the fire, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he doesn’t see the fire growing again in size, but that suppression wouldn’t be completed until there was a “season-ending snow event.”

However, snow fell in the area Thursday night and is expected to continue falling through the weekend in southeastern Wyoming, helping move the fire closer to being extinguished, he said.

“The fire is certainly winding down,” Gray said. “We do want to remind people that there will still be smoke and small fires seen in the area as we continue to work on suppression, containment and cleanup efforts.”

Some of the cleanup efforts will include running downed limbs and trees through a woodchipper and repairing fences and ruts in yards or roads.

The 1,400 or so Wyoming and Colorado residents who had to leave their homes or property due to the Mullen Fire have been allowed to return, although they are being urged to be ready should evacuation be necessary again. There is still a National Forest closure notice in effect, though.

According to fire tracking website InciWeb, around 385 people are now working to combat the fire.

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Mullen Fire Operations Wind Down; Fire At 69% Containment

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Operations are winding down when it comes to battling the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest.

As of Monday morning, the fire was at 69% contained, with just a few more than 800 people are working to combat it.

John Wallace, Operations Chief for the Southern Blue Team, said the weather has allowed firefighters to expand their containment lines.

“Our containment has dramatically increased over the past couple days,” he said. “We had a nice precipitation event yesterday and we expect more today.”

Wallace said with the precipitation, the containment area should continue to grow.

According to fire tracking website InciWeb, fire crews plan to patrol and monitor the area where the fire is still burning and mop-up small fires as it is safe to do so.

They also plan to work with law enforcement agencies and various utility groups to lift evacuation orders and allow people to return to their homes.

“Work continues out there getting ready for people to re-enter the Foxborough and Fox Park areas.,” he said. “A lot of infrastructure is out there and we wanted to get it out of your way.”

Major focuses continue to be suppression repair efforts, which will involve crews working on private lands to fix areas damaged by firefighting efforts and the fire itself, ranging from removing debris and repairing cut fences to repairing bulldozer lines.

“Firefighters are still watching a few smokes in the interior of the fire. They don’t pose risk to the containment,” Wallace said.

Of the 176,000 acres affected by the fire, more than 156,000 acres were in Wyoming.

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Friday Mullen Fire Update: Crews Placing Contingency Lines West Of Centennial

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Fire crews are using a slowdown in activity on the Mullen Fire to establish a fire line west of Centennial to prepare for the worst-case scenario, an official said Friday morning.

During a Friday morning update, public information officer Chris Joyner told Facebook viewers that while there isn’t much heat in the northwest portion of the fire, crews in the northeastern section are taking precautionary steps.

“We’re not seeing a lot of activity in the French Creek drainage area,” he said. “There is still a lot of heat [in the northern part of the fire area], but fortunately it’s extremely wet in here, so our models don’t show the fire spreading.”

However, fire crews are placing a contingency line west of Centennial as a preventative measure, even though officials don’t expect the fire to move there.

Crews will also work on spotting and cleaning up any fire hot spots on Friday and over the weekend.

There are around 980 personnel working to combat the fire, which has affected 176,386 acres as of Friday morning, according to fire tracking website InciWeb. Firefighters have completed a containment line around 34% of the fire.

While Saturday is expected to have sunny skies and fairly strong winds, Sunday is expected to be cool with a chance of rain.

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Repair Work Main Focus Of Mullen Fire Crews On Thursday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Fire crews working on the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest planned to use most of Thursday doing repair work inside the fire’s perimeter.

Michael Williams, the public information officer for the Southern Area Blue Team (a Type I wildfire management group), said that the fire didn’t grow significantly overnight Wednesday and was affecting 176,371 acres as of Thursday morning. It is still at a 34% containment rate.

The strong winds on Wednesday, with gusts reaching to 75 mph, didn’t have much effect on the fire area, something for which Williams and the rest of the fire crews were grateful.

“We got through that wind event relatively unscathed, not a lot of movement in the fire,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, our friends down to the south there at the Cameron Peak Fire had quite a bit of fire growth. So [we’re] pretty fortunate that the fire didn’t do anything [like that here].”

Crews will also do assessments to see what they can do to get the area inside the fire “back on track,” Williams added.

Overall, crews want to get the forest back in good condition before the next snowfall.

As of Thursday, the hottest area of the fire was found north of Albany and firefighters continued to battle flames there. Williams noted that crews placed a fire retardant base around the community, while also working to clean up any possible fuels left behind.

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Weekend Mullen Fire Work Pays Off On Slow Wednesday, Official Says

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It was a slow Wednesday when it came to Mullen Fire activity, officials confirmed in an evening update.

While fire crews were concerned about the possible strong winds, operations manager John Wallace said that by mid-morning, precipitation fell on the fire, providing much-needed relief after weeks of toiling.

As of Wednesday evening, the fire has affected 176,371 acres and is at a 34% containment rate.

Since there was little fire activity, crews focused on cleanup efforts in the Ryan Park area, which Wallace believes crews will be moving out of by the end of the week.

However, just because the fire hasn’t grown doesn’t mean fire crews are done working.

“The area north of Albany…still has some heat on it, and we’re watching that area very closely,” Wallace said.

He added that crews are continuing to monitor to the Fox Park and Foxborough communities in the meantime. Fox Creek Road residents are also now allowed to return home, according to an update on fire tracking website InciWeb.

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Wednesday Mullen Fire Update: Firefighters Battling 75MPH Winds

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Facing winds of up to 75 mph, firefighters battling the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest were going to focus on monitoring the fire Wednesday and attacking any trouble spots that may come up, according to a firefighting official.

Jon Wallace, operations section chief for the Type I team battling the 176,371-acre fire, said during a morning briefing that winds were making it difficult Wednesday to do much but monitor the flames and continue efforts to protect buildings.

“We’re just going to be really monitoring the fire today, engaging where we need to if the fire decides it wants to move out of the mountains and into the grasslands,” he said. “The firefighters are going to be really cautious today. There’s a lot of blowing debris out there, a lot of ash blowing around and so the conditions are just really nasty for us today.”

Firefighters have expanded the containment line around the fire from 30% to 34%, according to the wildfire information website InciWeb. 

Most of the containment line is on the fire’s western edge, stretching down around its southern tip in Colorado and then north back into Wyoming past Mountain Home.

On the fire’s northern edge, firefighters will begin some cleanup operations, using large chippers to clean up large piles of brush and timber around Ryan Park that were left by a fuel reduction project.

Once the winds die down, firefighters will also work on a stronger fire line near Centennial, Wallace said.

“It’s a long-term fire line that is going to help product Centennial in future fires, if not this one,” he said.

A Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation Team, made up of various forest specialists, is set to visit the area soon to direct rehabilitation efforts, he added.

“They look at the fire’s footprint and decide where we need to put erosion blankets down, where we need reseeding,” he said.

High winds were forecast to continue for two days, but begin slowing by Friday and Saturday, when temperatures were also expected to drop into the low 40s.

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Tuesday Mullen Fire Update: Fire Now 30% Contained

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters battling The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest have been able to expand their containment line around the blaze, officials announced early Tuesday morning.

The fire has now affected 176,047 acres and is 30% contained. The estimated containment date is still Oct. 30.

In a Tuesday morning update streamed on Facebook, operations manager John Wallace said that the fire was relatively quiet for most of Monday morning, but managed to gain some traction in the afternoon due to strong winds.

“Last night, our swing shift had to go out and actively engage with the fire and put it out as it moved out of the drainage ditches and towards some grassy areas,” Wallace said.

Strong winds are also a concern Tuesday. However, officials are focused on working with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office to reopen Fox Creek Road for residents to return home in the next day or so.

The fire has continued to advance toward Centennial, but Wallace said firefighters will focus on keeping it at bay near Middle Creek.

Fire crews will also work on removing dead trees and vegetation in the forest, to both slow the Mullen Fire and keep fires from developing in the near future.

More than 1,200 people are working to contain the fire.

While winds in the area were predicted to slow to 10 to 15 mph on Tuesday morning, forecasts called for the winds to strengthen through the night Tuesday, with gusts of up to 75 mph predicted by Wednesday. The winds, along with low humidity, were expected to leave available fuels for the fire dry and contribute to increased fire activity, according to the wildfire information website InciWeb.

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Monday PM Mullen Fire Update: Firefighters Prepare For 70mph Winds on Tuesday

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October 12 Mullen Fire Live Q&A

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Monday, October 12, 2020

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Even as they brace for high winds expected to rake the Mullen Fire on Wednesday, firefighters battling the 175,564-acre blaze are beginning to pick up their equipment from areas where the fire has been contained, officials said Monday.

John Wallace, operations section chief for the Type I management team coordinating efforts to contain the fire, said the firefighters on the blaze spent most of Monday making sure structures remained protected from the flames, particularly on the northeastern and eastern edges of the fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

“It was a pretty quiet day on the fire today,” he said during Monday’s briefing on the fire. “Firefighters did a lot of structure protection, hung around houses and made sure everything was OK.”

In one location north of Albany, snow from a storm that moved through the area Saturday was still on the ground, Wallace said.

“There was snow on the hill … there was no fire at all,” he said.

However, as winds increased Monday afternoon, fires that had dampened picked back up in the face of the higher winds and lower humidity.

“But everything was staying inside the lines,” he said.

Winds across the fire area gusted to 60 mph Monday afternoon and although they were expected to drop Monday night, winds were expected to pick up again Tuesday night and Wednesday, with gusts expected to reach 50 mph to 70 mph, said Kari Fleegel, the incident meteorologist for the fire. 

“It’s going to be very uncomfortable out there Wednesday,” she said.

Wallace said in areas where the fire has been contained, primarily along its eastern edge and the southern tip in Colorado, firefighters are returning to pick up their equipment.

“One of the things we’re doing right now is starting to pick up our hoses, our firefighting equipment in areas where we have contained the fire,” he said. “We’re starting to pick up after ourselves.”

Power should be restored soon to communities that saw it shut off during the worst of the fire, Wallace said, including Fox Park.

“I saw a power company truck out there earlier, so they’re starting to assess that and work on it,” he said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we don’t think we’re going to be burning up any power poles or power lines.”

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Monday AM Mullen Fire Update: Containment Rate At 27%, Fire Only Grew 29 Acres

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photo Credit: Big Laramie Volunteer Fire Department Station 4

The wintry weather and cool temperatures helped keep the Mullen Fire at bay on Sunday, officials announced on Monday morning.

The fire that’s burning in Medicine Bow National Forest only grew by 29 acres on Sunday and has affected 175,564 acres as of Monday morning. The containment rate is at 27%, 2% more than Sunday.

Fire operations manager John Wallace said in a Monday morning update in that firefighters would focus on protecting structures in the Ryan Park area, as well checking on any small fires that may be left in the Albany community.

“South of Albany, between Highway 11 and the 230 Road, I’m going to put eyes on that area today,” Wallace said. “I think we’re going to be able to call that all contained and controlled in this area [soon].”

While officials were expecting wind on Monday, cool temperatures were also predicted. Combined with the effects from Sunday’s snow, fire activity was expected to be diminished.

Firefighters planned to work on extinguishing the fire’s edges on Monday once it was safe to do so, but windy conditions added to the danger of falling snags, limbs and fire-weakened trees.

According to an update on the fire tracking website InciWeb, strong winds will be the biggest concern for fire crews until at least Wednesday.

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