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Mullen Fire

Mullen Fire Area Closure Lifted In Medicine Bow National Forest

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The onset of consistent winter conditions and the lack of fire activity in the Mullen Fire burn area has enabled the Medicine Bow National Forest to lift the area closure that has been in effect since mid-September.

The public may access and use the burn area in the southern Snowy Range, Albany and Carbon Counties, Wyo., and Jackson County, Colo., however the Mullen Fire may still be smoldering.

Most of the burn area has cooled, but heat may still exist in thick timber stands and deadfall. Smoke has not been visible for several weeks.

There is one exception to the area closure recension. Due to fire damage and hazards in the vicinity of the Rail Trail, approximately seven miles of the non-motorized trail, from Fox Park to Lake Owen, will remain closed to public use until mitigation work can be completed.

The parking area and toilet on the northwest corner of Lake Owen, near the fishing pier, will also be closed.  

Forest staff will continue to monitor the fire as it remains in patrol status and has not been declared fully controlled (out).

“The benefit of public access to the Mullen Fire burn area now outweighs the risks that exist,” said Laramie District Ranger Frank Romero. “That said, we absolutely do not want to minimize that burned areas can be hazardous and that people should not assume that everything is back to the way it was before.

“More than ever, visitors to the area need to be aware of the situations they are in. There is a lot of rebuilding, repair, regrowth, and work that will need to take place in coming years. The public needs to keep that in mind as they explore and recreate.”

Caution is urged in burned areas, as trees may have been weakened by the fire and could easily fall. The burn area will have many ‘snags,’ or standing dead trees that are fire weakened and highly unstable, especially in high winds.

The Mullen Fire was reported on September 17 and burned 176,878 acres.

Any additional fire information and updates will be provided by the USDA Forest Service on Twitter and on InciWeb. The Facebook page specific to the Mullen Fire will no longer be updated.

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Mullen Fire Almost Completely Contained, Some Smoke Will Be Seen Over Weekend

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest is at 95% contained, but people in the northern Albany County area will still likely see some smoke columns and fire over the weekend.

That’s according to Type IV Incident Management Team spokesman Travis Cott, who spoke with Cowboy State Daily Friday afternoon.

Cott said crews are working in the northernmost portion of the fire to contain the last of the flames.

“The cold weather and snow have helped, but sometimes cold weather isn’t always the blessing people think it is,” he said. “Cold weather can sometimes dry out those fuels in the fire area, meaning that it actually will grow in size.”

Thankfully, this isn’t expected for the diminishing Mullen Fire.

Cott said that while 100% containment is coming in the next few days, this doesn’t mean the fire is completely out. It just means that it will continue burning inside the footprint created by the containment line.

Fewer than 50 people are working to combat the fire, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.

The Type IV Incident team will actually change over on Friday, letting the U.S. Forest Service take over management of the fire.

Cott added that the cause of the wildfire is still under investigation and couldn’t say when the USFS might release information regarding it.

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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 received a foot of snow, the Mullen Fire is still smoldering.

And it will continue to smolder.

The latest update from the Mullen firefighting team said the latest round of snow the area received 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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Sunday PM Mullen Fire Update: Snowfall Keeps Fire At Bay

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photo Credit: Kari Fleegel, Incident Meteorologist at NOAA

The predicted snowfall came as expected to a portion of southeast Wyoming on Sunday, providing much-needed relief for crews helping battle the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest.

The fire barely made any headway at all on Sunday, according to operations manager John Wallace, who stated as much during a Facebook livestream update.

“Firefighters were still out there watching the structures, because we were still deeply concerned that the fire would move around before the snow started,” Wallace said in his Sunday evening update. “So once the snow did start and we saw that it wasn’t going to stop, we went ahead and pulled firefighters back out to the main roads.”

However, he doesn’t expect the fire to stay cool for long, adding that it will probably begin gaining traction again sometime Monday afternoon.

He did expect the containment rate to again increase in the next couple of days, though. As of Sunday evening, the fire is at a 25% containment rate and has affected 174,912 acres, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.

The biggest impact from the weather on Sunday was that gusty winds kept the fire crews from flying any aircraft, Wallace added.

The fire has not moved much at all over the weekend, with Wallace adding that it only grew by 500 acres total on Saturday.

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Despite 55mph Winds, Firefighters Predict Containment Of Mullen Fire’s Northeastern Edge

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Although firefighters on the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest were dealing Sunday with brisk winds from the northwest, officials were confident that the fire’s leading northeastern edge would be contained by Monday.

John Wallace, operations section chief for the Type I fire command team in charge of battling the flames, said during a morning briefing on the fire that while winds expected to gust to 55 mph Sunday could create problems near the Albany area, he believed conditions were favorable enough to halt the fire’s spread by Monday.

“Today, this northwest wind is really going to test this area (near Albany),” he said. “The firefighters on the ground are really not anticipating any issues with holding this. This area is really cold, it’s really doing good. So after this really good northwest wind, I think you’ll probably see this area of the fire contained (Monday).”

Wallace said the winds could also create some challenges for firefighters working to contain a “finger” of the fire burning north of Woods Landing. However, he added firefighters have been working for four days to prepare for such conditions.

“We put a lot of work in over the last four day sot make sure this would not be a factor today,” he said. “This is probably one of our most critical holding points today.”

As of Sunday morning, the fire involved about 175,535 acres and Wallace said the fire grew by only about 500 acres on Saturday.

“Five hundred acres of growth in one day on a fire this size is really pretty insigificant,” he said.

Firefighters have completed a containment line around about 25% of the fire, according to the latest daily “fact sheet” issued by the forest. The biggest part of the containment line stretches from near the A Bar A ranch near Encampment south into Colorado, around the fire’s southern edge and back north into Wyoming.

The strong winds seen Sunday were expected to bring a cold front that could bring some rain and snow to the area during the day.

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Retired Forester Frustrated With Lack Of Fire-Fighting Common Sense

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By Karl Brauneis, guest column
Editors note: Karl Brauneis served as a USFS Hot Shot (Bighorn – Wyoming Hotshots), Smokejumper (Missoula), Forester, Range Conservationist, Fire Management Officer, Burn Boss, and Incident Commander during a long and distinguished career with the United States Forest Service.

After decades of first-hand experience, I have a few things to stay about the current situation when it comes to managing forest fires here in Wyoming and out on the West Coast.

Let me generalize with humility: If you get a toothache and go to an environmentalist or an attorney, you will end up with a mouth full of rotten teeth. If you go to a dentist, you will enjoy healthy teeth and gums.

If you go to an environmentalist or an attorney to manage your forest, you will end up with dead trees and a conflagration. If you go to a forester to manage your forest, you will end up with healthy trees and a healthy local community with jobs and material based on renewable natural resources.

For perspective:  The National Forests are approximately 30 percent commercial forest lands that should be managed for timber outputs and healthy forests to provide for local jobs that support local communities. We treat these areas after logging through the burning of “activity fuels”.

Forty percent of the National Forests are rangelands. These areas should be managed for livestock and wildlife to provide for local community stability and recreation.

Prescribed fire is often used to manage and enhance this resource. The remaining 30 percent of the lands are wilderness and back country managed in part through wilderness fire plans and prescribed burning. That’s the general idea.

Environmental activism through the “Environmental Industrial Complex” short circuits the system and takes management away from resource professionals and shifts it into the hands of the Environmental Elites.

Couple that with the numerous government programs of Cultural Transformation in violation of the Civil Rights Act (1964) as in hire and promote based on race, color, sex and creed opposed to merit and you have a real recipe for disaster.

 Forest expert Paul Gleason always said, “Generalize with Humility, Detail Counts, and It Depends,” in talking of forest and fire ecology.

This is why you must have trained resource professionals managing the forests. This is also why you go to a dentist when you have a tooth ache.

With good forest management much of this can be averted. With respect to fire – prescribed fire works best. As we all know and plan for; we burn while the target species and natives are dormant before green up when the soils are moist to achieve the best response and keep forage available for wildlife while we rotate our livestock.

While in California I once saw a Cal Fire Captain standing in waist high forage talking to the media about how the heavy fuel loading in the grass is causing the worst fire season in decades. I just shook my head.

Turn out the damn cows on that grass and get with a prescribed fire program and increase your grazing! I swear the knowledge lacking in forest management can only be equaled or surpassed in rangeland conservation. This is what happened when the California Department of Forestry (CDF) switched to Cal Fire and we went from treating the disease to bandaging the symptoms.

The third week in April was the last week I could prescribe burn our rangelands in the Wind Rivers. That is because within days the Idaho Fescue and other native bunch grasses and the bitterbrush and other native shrubs came out of dormancy.

The forage increase was simply amazing within weeks. The wildlife benefited in weeks because they were immersed in new forage while we rotated our livestock for two years out of the burn area.

We ended up with so many elk that the Game and Fish Dept.  had to go to both a bull and cow harvest for years following in the general season. We lost no livestock. I even proposed increasing the livestock grazing but due to a downturn in the market, the permittees asked me not to fight that battle. 

What the Forest Service needs are more foresters and range conservationists who truly understand the land and how to steward the land, care for the community, maximize production while reducing risk to wildfire.

Remember, those permittees, those families are dependent upon us to do a good job and add stability to their lives and operation. Why do we keep forgetting that part of the picture?

But then you all know that so I am simply preaching to the choir.

However, these two photographs (Ed Young Basin near Lander) say it all from one of my burns. You can have results like this with professional land management or let mother nature give you a burned landscape for months on end with dead wildlife and dead livestock with no forage available until the next growing season. But then you all know that.

Stop prescribed burning in drought when you do not get the desired effects you want and put out the wildfires fast.

It’s the Timing! It’s all about the Timing!

Even when you know the right thing to do. You don’t get that from Cultural Transformation. You get that from range management in college, age, wisdom, mentorship and experience. But we all know that. We just can’t get that across to the politically correct Forest Service leadership yet alone the public.

So, we get death and destruction instead. Go Figure. Stupid is as Stupid does.

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Couple Who Reported Mullen Fire Believe Forest Service Didn’t Fight Fire Early Enough

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The two Carbon County residents who first reported what would become the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest believe more should have been done to fight it in its early stages.

Helicopters were dispatched to drop water on the fire in the Savage Run Wilderness within an hour of it being reported on Sept. 17, according to a Medicine Bow spokesman.

But Ron and Mayvon Platt, who live on a ranch south of Encampment, said they believe the fire could have been attacked more aggressively, preventing it from doing significant damage and spreading to more than 170,000 acres.

Ron Platt, who spotted smoke from the fire while guiding a hunting party, said he encountered firefighters near the A Bar A Ranch near Encampment who told him they had been prevented from entering the fire area because it was a wilderness area.

“That’s what irritated me,” he said. “The fire wasn’t much bigger than a house. The smoke hadn’t even gotten real high in the sky.”

But Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos said the rules that usually restrict firefighting operations in wilderness areas have been relaxed this year to encourage the immediate suppression of fires, allowing immediate action to be taken and the helicopters to be dispatched within an hour.

“Policies change … from year to year based on the situation on the ground and the available resources that are out there,” he said. “This year, the message was loud and clear, we don’t want any fire at all on the landscape. There was zero tolerance for it.”

Usual policies for wilderness areas call for fires to be allowed to burn unless they threaten human safety or buildings.

But with the high fire activity around the country this year, those rules have been changed to allow aircraft to drop water and retardant on flames and for firefighters to use mechanized devices to battle fires.

Voos said the fuels inside the fire created a situation too dangerous for firefighters, so they were used instead to assess the fire and develop strategies for protection of nearby infrastructure such as the Rob Roy Reservoir, the Rambler subdivision and the A Bar A.

Mayvon Platt, who spotted the fire while returning home from a trip to Laramie, said she did not understand why some of the air tankers fighting the Cameron Peak fire in Colorado could not be diverted to drop retardant on the Mullen Fire.

“It was no bigger than a small house at the time it was spotted and with the aircraft so close fighting the Cameron (Peak) Fire (in Colorado), I wouldn’t think it would be that big an ordeal to come over and just put it out,” she said. 

But Voos said the air tankers could not quickly be dispatched to Wyoming.

“When it got established in the wilderness area, we would have had to have heavy air tankers at our command at a moment’s notice to put load after load after load on it to stop it,” he said. “Those air resources were elsewhere. Those are not always available.”

Voos said the firefighters were successful in protecting major infrastructure in the face of gusting, shifting winds and high temperatures.

“When that thing got built up and in a matter of days came roaring out of there, we were extremely successful in getting out ahead of it and protecting the structures at risk,” he said. “We’ve got some really good folks and they were able to look out in front of this thing and they were able to say ‘This is where we are able to engage it, this is where we make this stand.’”

Ron Platt said even if the rules for fighting fires in wilderness areas have been relaxed, more thought needs to be given to the kind of activity needed to suppress a fire like the Mullen Fire.

“We need to get relaxed enough to allow common sense, particularly in years like this,” he said. “I’m not against wilderness. I want wilderness. Let’s just use some sense in taking care of it.”

He noted that wilderness rules have also prevented the clearing of dead timber that provides fuel for such fires.

Officials are still working to determine what caused the fire and Platt said he saw no signs of thunderstorms that often spark wildfires.

“There wasn’t a cloud or lightning or anything like that,” he said. “I was outdoors all day that day and I never saw or heard even the slightest hint of moisture or lightning.”

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Cheyenne Looks Like Living on Mars Again

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The sky is red. The air is smoky and heavy.

As the 170,000-acre Mullen Fire rages 75 mile west of Cheyenne, smoke from the blaze is filling the community and ash is raining down.

It’s so smoky, air quality alerts have been issued again for the area through at least Friday at noon.

This morning, visibility was near zero on I-80 in southeast Wyoming. The photos the National Weather Service posted show just how dense the smoke was.

While better weather is forecast for the area over the weekend, the problem, according to firefighting officials, continues to be the sheer volume of dead trees they have to deal with.

The dead trees are the fuel which feeds the fire.

On Thursday afternoon, the heavy fuel load was mentioned again.  John Wallace, Operations Section Chief, said crews couldn’t use the roads in the northern section of the fire because of all the dead trees blocking the pathways.

“They’re looking for a way to get back in here and work. These roads that we’ve been trying to utilize have a lot of dead Ponderosa lodgepole pine and very difficult conditions in there and not a lot of success,” he said.

In the Keystone and Rambler areas, Wallace said “there’s just a lot of dead material in there that’s burning, and it’s burning intensely.”

He said the same thing this morning.

“We are still in there working and trying to actively establish lines in there but there’s been resistance primarily due to the amount of heavy downed and dead fuel, largely the dead lodgepole pine.”

Cheyenne resident Brian Harmsen said roads that were easily passable in a 4×4 pickup in 1995 were more like a riverbed last summer.

“I’ve had to include my chainsaw as required equipment and have cut my way in as well as cut my way out on account of dead trees that fall across the roads frequently,” he said.

Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day says the smoke will remain in the area through Sunday or Monday. He said a cold front will come through the area — which is good news — but won’t extinguish the blaze.

“The front will be a fast-mover which will limit precipitation.  However it’s not going to be enough to put the fires out. It won’t be a season-ending storm system when it comes to the wildfires,” Day said.

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Tuesday Night Mullen Fire Update: 161k-Acres, Excessive Dead Lodgepole Pine Making Efforts Difficult

in News/Mullen Fire

Operations Brief. Delayed based on late developing activity.

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

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A new team came in to manage the Mullen Fire on Tuesday and they were greeted with the same weather: above average temperatures, gusty winds, no precipitation, and critically-low humidity.

These conditions allowed the fire to expand to 161,151 acres by day’s end.

Less-than-ideal conditions to fight the blaze will continue for a few more days although Wednesday will see a decrease in wind speeds.

Kari Fleagle, Incident Meteorologist for the Mullen Fire, said Wednesday will have the lightest winds for the next several days but temperatures are expected to increase as well.

The good news, Fleagle said, is a big change in the weather is in store this weekend and into next week.

“As we move into the latter half of the weekend, and into early next week, temperatures will be about 25 degrees or even colder than what we’ve had we’ve had over the last several days,” she said. “It’s going to be quite a change.”

Officials said containment remained at 14% in spite of the Red Flag Warning in place for most of the day.  

One of the things we keep hearing about in the daily updates is the excessive “fuel load” that is present on the ground and the fire consumes.

Today was no different. When speaking about the northwestern perimeter of the fire near the Ryan Park area, Operations Section Chief John Wallace said it’s been a “challenging environment” for the firefighters.

“There’s a lot of dead and down lodgepole pine,” Wallace said. “And so they haven’t been able to make the progress in there that we’ve wanted to make. But they’re still working on it.”

In another section of the fire near Albany, large smoke flumes were seen today because the fire moved from the mountains to the grasslands.

Wallace said the movement of the fire to the grasslands will allow firefighters to roll-out big air tankers to help extinguish the flames — something they couldn’t do in mountainous country.

“Typically, this is where the air tankers are incredibly effective,” he said. “The view back in toward the fire should be pretty exciting in the morning with those air tankers working and trying to pick that fire up as it comes out into that grass.”

Wallace said the biggest challenges for Wednesday are going to be east of Albany and near the Rob Roy reservoir.

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Monday Night Mullen Fire Update: 157k Acres, Fires Very Active

in News/Mullen Fire

Mullen Fire Live Q&A

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Monday, October 5, 2020

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It was another day of above-average temperatures and high winds in the Medicine Bow National Forest and that, along with critically-low humidity, made fighting the Mullen Fire on Monday a challenge.

Firefighters estimate that the blaze is now affecting more than 157,000-acres and remains at 14% contained.

Unfortunately, the weather this week will continue to be uncooperative with similar conditions forecast through Friday.

What made it even more difficult on Monday was the presence of strong westerly winds and the abundance of material to feed the fire.

“Due to the fuel loads in the area, it’s been very challenging,” Incident Commander Michael Hayden said Monday evening.

That’s something that Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon touched on as well during his weekly press conference.

“It is clear our forests need to be managed and it is clear we are making progress where there has been logging that has happened or there has been some burnout activity before,” he said.

Firefighting officials report that the blaze is very active in the northern perimeter between the communities of Albany and Keystone along Road 542.

Structure Protection groups were spread throughout the fire area including the town of Centennial, Wyoming.

“We were able to obtain a couple road graders from Albany County and they started putting some greater lines out in the grass and sage flats as a precautionary measure in the event the fire makes a makes a push towards Centennial,” Operations spokesman Deon Steinle said.

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Gordon Says Mullen Fire Shows Need For Proper Forest Management

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The 151,000-acre Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest shows the need for proper forest management, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.

Gordon, speaking during his regular press briefing, said the fire has shown how important it is to limit the amount of dead timber within forests to limit the severity of such fires by mixing old growth with areas of new growth.

“It is clear our forests need to be managed and it is clear we are making progress where there has been logging that has happened or there has been some burnout activity before,” he said. “This is just something that is valuable in getting a mosaic in the forest.”

Removing dead timber such as trees killed by beetles would also help reduce carbon dioxide releases from trees that are oxidizing as they decompose, he said.

Gordon also thanked the more than 1,000 firefighters battling the fire for their efforts.

“They face extraordinarily challenging conditions,” he said. “With warm and dry conditions forecast for this week, there is no let-up for what we see coming ahead. Those crews need a significant change in weather to make more progress.”

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Mullen Fire Sunday Night Update: Fire Very Active “No Relief This Week”

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Mullen Fire Weather – Sunday, October 4th

October 4th – Incident Meteorologist Chip Redmond provides an overview of weather on the #MullenFire_WY, current and forecasted.

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Sunday, October 4, 2020

Although containment of the 147,127-acre Mullen Fire has increased to from 6% to 14% over the past 24 hours, worsening weather conditions will make the fire more difficult to battle over the next few days.

The problem is something people in the Rocky Mountain West would normally embrace this time of year: above-average temperatures and no precipitation.  But this year we need the opposite.

“We are in no way out of the woods on this on this fire. And we really need a significant weather change to really change the dynamic of this fire,” Russ Bacon, Forest Supervisor of the Medicine Bow National Forest, said.

Unfortunately, a change in the weather is not going to happen this week. Expect more of the same. Above average temperatures, no precipitation, and windy.

“The winds are going to be cranking at 35 – 40mph around the fire,” Rocky Mountain Blue Team Incident Meteorologist Sean Redmond said.

“And then rinse, wash, repeat. No relief this week. The fire is going to be very active this week,” he said.

As a result, much of the groundwork the firefighters have done to protect structures will be tested. 

“A lot of the lines we spent time preparing for, a lot of the structure-protection work we did like removing fuels, getting firewood and burnable materials as far away as possible. A lot of that is getting tested right now,” Incident Commander Michael Hayden said.

“All the planning that went into place, at least in most of these areas, we feel we’re ready for it,” he said.

He said a top priority is to get people back in their properties when it’s safe. But, despite outward appearances it’s not safe yet, he said mentioning the Woods Landing area.

“The problems we’re having right now is this fire is directly aiming right back down [to the location],” he said.  “And if we can hold Highway 230 and Highway 127, that’s when we really start to make that area safe for people to go back into.”

There could be some relief on the horizon as a change in the weather pattern is possible next weekend. Cooler temperatures and possibly some precipitation could be in store.

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