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Cheyenne Frontier Days, Other Locals Orgs Work To Help Victims Of Colorado Wildfires

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of organizations in Cheyenne are working together to help people in Colorado who have been displaced by wildfires.

Currently, there are eight wildfires burning across the state, but the two affecting northern Colorado are the Cameron Peak Fire (which has recently been declared as the largest in the state’s history) and the East Troublesome Fire.

The East Troublesome Fire has only popped up within the last week, but on Thursday, it forced the evacuation of much of the town of Estes Park. More evacuation notices are expected coming, as the fire is only at 5% containment.

But Cheyenne organizations, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, are offering up their services and help to those in need.

CFD CEO Tom Hirsig told Cowboy State Daily that the rodeo organization is offering up its grounds to anyone who needs to store their horses or livestock because of evacuation.

“We have things we can offer these people, so why not do it?” Hirsig said. “It’s already devastating enough that these people might lose their homes, but these poor animals have got to be terrified.”

CFD even posted the notice to its Facebook page, letting anyone know they could call 307-778-7263 for more information.

The offer is not unprecedented for CFD, as Hirsig noted that the rodeo has always been willing to offer up its stalls or corrals to farmers, ranchers or a cowboy/girl in need, but he said the offers have never reached this scale.

Currently, no one from Colorado has had to bring their animals to Cheyenne just yet (thanks to many of the northern Colorado livestock boards, who have been helping in the interim), but Hirsig hopes that people will take advantage of the opportunity, should it be needed.

“Cheyenne Frontier Days was founded on helping our community, and our community is bigger than just Cheyenne,” he said. “I think many organizations get caught up chasing the almighty dollar, but this just shows that things can be taken away in an instant. It’s a time in our world where we can see the good in people.”

Visit Cheyenne has also partnered with many of the hotels in the city to offer heavily discounted rates to those displaced by the fires.

The organization currently has a list of hotels and their discounted rates for wildfire victims, which will be updated.

“We are all praying for your safety and Cheyenne is willing to help in any way we can,” Visit Cheyenne wrote in a tweet.

Some of the firefighters from Laramie County Fire District No. 2 have been traveling to Loveland to help staff the fire station and give their Colorado colleagues a much-needed break, according to 9News from Denver.

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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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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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Friday AM Mullen Fire Update: Fire Now 18% Contained, Cool Weather On The Way

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has grown slightly in the last day, but is now at an 18% containment rate.

According to a Facebook post on the Mullen Fire Information page, the fire has now affected 173,747 acres as of late Thursday night.

John Wallace, operations manager of the fire management team, said in a Facebook livestream Friday morning that he and other officials decided they would no longer put people on the ground in the northern area of the fire, which has been an issue for crews in recent days.

“We’re just not making any progress with it,” Wallace said. “There’s a lot of dead and down trees, there’s a lot of heavy fuels, and we’re just not able to accomplish anything in there.”

Instead, crews will fall back to the A Bar A Ranch area and monitor the French Creek Canyon, which the fire has to encounter before it will cause any damage to people or structures.

Wallace added that the new 4% containment was in the western part in the fire

Friday’s planned activities include firing operations in the northeast part of the fire and structure preparation in Centennial, across the Highway 130 corridor and in the Ryan Park community.

Cooler temperatures and more moisture moving into the area over the weekend will moderate fire activity and allow firefighters to move in closer and work more directly on the fire’s edges.

Meteorologist Don Day said in his Friday morning weather forecast that a strong cold front would be moving in Saturday and Sunday and although it will limit precipitation, it will still be helpful regarding the fire.

“It’s really hard to get excited that this will produce much moisture, but it will produce some,” he said.

It will also be cool and breezy Monday, with Day adding that although the weekend cold front won’t quite bring fall weather, it will set long-term changes into motion that Wyomingites will see in the latter half of the month.

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Thursday PM Mullen Fire Update: Fire Moves North, Dead Trees Adding Complications

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest continues to move north, albeit slowly, being hindered by cooler temperatures and higher humidities.

Officials gave an update on the fire during a Thursday night Facebook livestream.

Operations manager John Wallace said firefighters have been working in the northwest corner of the fire area to secure the perimeter, but have been hindered due to the roads being covered in dead Ponderosa lodgepole pine trees.

“There have been very difficult conditions in there and not a lot of success,” Wallace said. “So they’re going to start looking for other opportunities up to the north.”

Protection measures are being laid out in the Ryan Park area, with crews working on structure protection, although the fire was still about 10 miles away as of Thursday.

No update was given on the acreage during the livestream, but fire tracking website InciWeb reported 170,996 acres had been affected as of Thursday afternoon.

The fire has worked its way around Albany, so firefighters will focus suppression efforts in the transition between timber and grasslands along the old railroad line between Albany and Centennial.

Gov. Mark Gordon visited the area on Thursday to survey the damage and talk with fire crews, meteorologist Carrie Fleagle noted.

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Thursday AM Mullen Fire Update: Huge Amounts of Dead Lodgepole Pine Creating Resistance

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The cooler temperatures this week have been critical in helping firefighters put water on hot spots and prepare for full containment of the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest, officials announced Thursday morning.

John Wallace, operations commander for the fire management team, discussed Wednesday’s operations and plans for Thursday during a Facebook livestream.

Certain areas in the southern region of the fire will likely be considered contained in the coming days, Wallace said.

However, the northern side is still burning actively.

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

The fire has “really slowed down,” according to Wallace and had affected 170,996 acres as of Thursday morning. Nearly 1,100 personnel are working to combat the fire.

Although temperatures were cooler, a fire weather watch and red flag warning had been issued due to dry conditions and gusty winds.

A cold front will move into the area late Saturday into early Sunday, but “seasonal weather” will return for the next week, officials said.

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Centennial Resident Talks Anxiety, Fears Of Possible Evacuation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

For about two weeks, Marie Kranz has begun every morning by getting her work uniform out of her suitcase.

The Centennial postmaster is not living away from her home. She’s just been living on the edge of a pre-evacuation notice for the last few weeks due to the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest.

Centennial has been under a pre-evacuation notice for several weeks, with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office reiterating that the pre-evacuation order still stands: residents should be prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.

Some of the pre-evacuation checklist tasks advise residents to make sure they have at least a half-tank of gas at all times, make sure important files are packed up and ready to go and that special or valuable items are ready to be picked up as soon as the evacuation order is issued.

Kranz has lived in Centennial for less than a year, but has spent the last two weeks in a near-constant state of anxiety. She’s packed up her belongings, categorized any items that insurance could replace and has her dog’s items ready, just in case the call comes.

“I’ve been living out of boxes and suitcases for the last couple weeks,” she said. “It kind of reminds me of when I used to travel for work and I would be in hotels and living out of suitcases, but I’m in my home.”

The anxiety, at times, can be agonizing. She noted that a recent trip into Laramie earlier this week caused a near panic attack.

“I drove to Laramie to get dog food and some groceries and I was so worried the entire time I was gone that the evacuation notice would come down and I wouldn’t be able to go home and get my dog and my things,” she said. “Every single time I passed a police car, I would have to stop myself from pulling over and turning around. I kept thinking, ‘This is it.'”

Doing menial errands like grocery shopping has turned into a game of strategy, as Kranz worries that any time she leaves her home for anything other than work, it might be the last time she sees it.

But it’s not just her dog and belongings Kranz is worried about – it’s her neighbors, her newfound community in Centennial and the forest itself. It’s heartbreaking for Kranz and the Centennial residents to watch the beautiful trees go up in flames.

The smoke has also been a problem in Centennial, Kranz noted. Some days, the skies are clear and as blue as the ocean.

Others, it looks overcast outside, but instead of gray, the sky is red.

“Sometimes, like today, the sky will be so black, you can’t even see the sun,” she said. “It’s scary, because you think ‘If there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ When you see smoke like that, you realize how close the fire is.”

So for now, Kranz and the rest of the Centennial community will continue to wait, either for an all clear sign or an evacuation notice. The only thing that can put Kranz at ease right now is precipitation.

“I don’t care if it’s rain or snow, just something wet falling from the sky,” she said.

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Wednesday Night Mullen Fire Update: Fire Inches Closer To Ryan Park

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters spent much of the day Wednesday conducting structure assessments, prep work and ordering supplies to keep the Mullen Fire at bay, officials announced during their regular briefing.

John Wallace, operations section chief for the Type I management team on the fire, gave the rundown on Wednesday’s operations during a Facebook livestream.

No notice was given about how much the fire had grown on Wednesday or if the containment rate was still at 14%.

The Ryan Park area was a major focus for fire crews today, as they began looking to that community for structure assessment and preparing structures for protection against the flames.

Although the main fire is still relatively far from Ryan Park, spot fires have been popping up in the woods near there, concerning crews.

Centennial is also being eyed for structure assessment this week.

“We’ve got folks in Centennial doing structure assessments, and [Thursday] you’re going to start seeing people again, getting hoses out of trucks, setting up big orange tanks, working with local fire departments,” Wallace said.

The closest portion of the fire is about eight miles away from Centennial and moved “very little” on Wednesday. Wallace said crews believe the higher elevations and the September snowstorm have kept it at bay.

Temperatures were in the upper 60s on Wednesday, but there will be a red flag warning going into effect on Thursday due to high winds and dry weather conditions.

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Wednesday Morning Mullen Update: Aircraft To Drop Retardant On Albany Area

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It will look like an airshow in the Albany area on Wednesday as multiple aircraft will be coming in to help battle the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest.

John Wallace, operations section chief for the management team on the fire, said heavy air tankers would fly over the Albany area throughout Wednesday to drop retardant on the fire.

Wallace, part of a new Type I management team that took over the fire’s management Tuesday, provided his update by Facebook livestream Wednesady morning.

The Mullen Fire has now affected 166,588 acres and is still 14% contained.

Wallace said during his update that firefighters saw “a lot” of activity Tuesday afternoon and evening, with many personnel working to protect structures in the Albany area. The fire reached 311 Road, but was held back by crews, he said.

“We’re just getting things ready for if the fire does move past Rambler, past Keystone and begin to move out and start threatening Centennial,” Wallace said. “So we’ve done a lot of cleanup work yesterday and last night, getting ready for the next three or four days.”

Although Centennial still hasn’t been evacuated, crews are preparing for the fire to move in that direction, taking this time to work on structure protection and placing hoses, just in case.

Smoke will also be heavy throughout Wednesday, Wallace added.

According to fire tracking website InciWeb, lighter winds are expected Wednesday, the lightest that fire crews will see until at least early next week. Fire weather conditions will stay elevated, despite the lighter winds.

Temperatures will cool over the weekend, as well.

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Tuesday Morning Mullen Fire Update: 161K Acres Affected

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters will spend much of Tuesday working to combat fire “fingers,” small areas protruding from the main body of the Mullen Fire that have been pushed in various directions inside of Medicine Bow National Forest, officials announced.

The strategy announcement was one of several made by John Peterson, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Mangement Team, during a briefing livestreamed to Facebook.

Peterson also announced that the Rambler area on the Carbon County side of the fire continues to be monitored for structure protection and has been evacuated.

“We’ve had a structural protection group in the Rambler area for over 14 days,” Peterson said. “They’ve been preparing those structures and they’re engaged with continuing to protect those structures.”

There have also been structure protection groups in the Mountain Home and Foxborough areas, which have also been evacuated.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire has affected just over 161,000 acres and 1,130 personnel are working to combat it. The fire is at 14% containment.

There have been “several” spot fires in the Albany area that firefighters have had to “actively and aggressively” combat and contain, Peterson added.

The fire has continued to move south into Colorado, but it hasn’t been nearly as aggressive as it was last week.

Peterson said it isn’t quite time to say there has been containment for the portion of the fire burning in Colorado, but noted that there have been fewer spot fires and that the fire was settling down in that area.

According to fire tracking website InciWeb, persistent critical fire weather will continue throughout Tuesday. Westerly winds will increase throughout the morning, hitting gusts up to 30 MPH.

Warm and dry conditions will be in place Wednesday through Friday. The winds will diminish some on Wednesday, but are expected to increase Thursday and Friday.

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