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Mullen Fire Grows to 7,000+ Acres; Firefighting Resources Pulled For Safety

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The Mullen Fire in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest continues to grow and continues to get more dangerous.

At 8 p.m. on Saturday, the U.S. Forest Service reported that resources fighting the fire had to be pulled back due to strong and shifting winds.

Aerial resources, they said, were also pulled because of the erratic winds and the poor visibility.

“There is intense fire activity on multiple flanks,” the Forest Service said in its 8 p.m. incident report. “The possibility for extreme fire behavior exists through the weekend.

According to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, 7,365 acres are affected by the fire but the Forest Service said “it is likely much larger.”

Earlier in the evening, Gov. Mark Gordon indicated a higher number as well.

“The Mullen Fire on the Medicine Bow National Forest is now estimated at 7,500 acres and is one mile from 25 summer cabins near Rob Roy Reservoir. Keep our fire crews and these homeowners in your thoughts,” Gordon tweeted.

The Forest Service reported that the Rambler and Rob Roy areas had been evacuated as of Saturday night. The Keystone area is under pre-evacuation notice. This includes Keystone proper, lower Keystone, Langford/Ricker, Moore’s Gulch, and 507C cabin grouping.

The communique also reported:

– The fire has crossed the Savage Run Wilderness boundary on the south flank, as well as the 512 Rd

– Fire is now established in the Platte River Wilderness

– On the east side, the fire has crossed the Savage Run Wilderness boundary over the 511 Rd, near Forest Road 562

Earlier Saturday evening, the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities said the fire could have an impact at some point on Cheyenne’s water but “Cheyenne’s drinking water remains safe.”

“The location of the fire is by our main drinking water reservoir, Rob Roy. We do not know the impact of the Mullen Fire at this time, but the location suggests there may be some adverse effects to the City of Cheyenne’s water collection system and water quality.”

As for the immediate future, the Forest Service warned of future closures.

“This is a major fire, folks. Larger area closure coming for Medicine Bow,” the agency tweeted.

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Fire Burning At Medicine Bow National Forest

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming first reported Thursday grew to more than 200 acres Friday morning, officials said.

U.S. Forest Service officials, on the agency’s “Inciweb” fire-tracking website urged those visiting the forest’s Savage Run Wilderness area to leave because of the threat posed by the fire.

The fire, known as the Mullen Fire, was reported midday Thursday, but the cause had not been determined as of late Friday morning.

The fire origin started in the Savage Run Wilderness area in the forest in Carbon County.

There is a possibility for extreme fire behavior through the weekend and a high probability for fire growth to the north and east, up the Mullen Creek drainages, as well as the Savage Run Creek drainage, the Forest Service said.

Ground crews are focusing on protecting the area near the A Bar A Ranch to the west and private property to the east. The Rambler and Rob Roy areas have been evacuated.

Two helicopters are currently working the fire edges. Forest Service staff, the Wyoming Game and Fish officials and Albany/Carbon Counties staff are helping people get away from the fire area.

The fire is in extremely rugged terrain with live blowdowns and beetle-killed deadfall trees.

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More Than 100 Wyoming Firefighters Help Battle Wildfires

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

More than 100 Wyoming state and local firefighters are helping battle wildfires in West Coast states, according to a state official, but at the same time, firefighters remaining in the state have suppressed more than 1,500 fires.

“We haven’t had any big headline-type fires this year,” said state Forester Bill Crapser. “But we’ve had a record number of fires this year. Working with the federal agencies, focusing on aggressive initial attacks, knock on wood, it’s been pretty successful for us.”

Firefighters from across the country are helping battle the flames from the 28 major wildfires burning in California, and another 30 burning in Washington and Oregon.

Crapser said 88 firefighters from local fire departments across Wyoming are helping battle the fires, accompanied by 17 engines.

From the State Forestry Division, 12  firefighters and one engine have been sent to assist, he added.

Another 22 Wyoming firefighters making up part of a multi-state “strike team” are helping battle the flames in Oregon with firefighting crews from Kansas and South Dakota, Crapser said.

The local firefighters in Oregon, who also took engines from their departments, come from Campbell and Fremont counties and Rock Springs and Jackson, he added.

A state fire crew is also part of the team, along with one of the state’s engines, he said.

The units have been deployed in Oregon as part of the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, in which multiple states join efforts to battle flames.

“It’s pretty cool to see how we can mobilize stuff on a fire and put together that many agencies all running under the same management team,” he said.

Inside the state’s borders, firefighters have been assisted in their efforts to suppress fires early by two single-engine air tankers that the state has under contract, Crapser said.

“The two aircraft based out of Casper, they’ve flown on 50 different fires and made 229 individual sorties,” he said.

In addition, helicopters specially equipped to fly firefighters to remote fires have been busier than usual this year, Crapser said, helping with keeping fires to a minimum.

“In an average season for a helitack, they will fly 32 missions,” he said. “As of yesterday, they had flown 45 for the season.”

Part of the reason to aggressively battle fires is to keep them small so large fire camps will not be needed, he added.

“Part of it is because of COVID,” he said. “This is an attempt nationally. We’re trying to avoid large fire camps where we have several hundred people.”

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Hanna Returns To Normal After City-Wide Evacuation

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The task of emptying a complete community in the face of a rapidly spreading wildfire is something that very few people have experience doing.

Yet the town of Hanna managed to do exactly that on Saturday without any deaths, significant injury or loss of structures — with no practice beforehand.

“The whole thing was a like a practice event that we never practiced before,” said Mayor Lois Buchanan told the Cowboy State Daily. “Everything just clicked right together.”

Hanna residents were allowed to return to their homes Sunday afternoon, after firefighters stopped the advance of the 316 Fire toward the town’s city limits.

Power to homes, stopped because of concerns about the fire, was restored in time for the storm that swept through the state Monday, bringing snow and cold temperatures.

Kim Connolly, the town’s secretary, said residents seem to be returning to their normal lives.

“I think everyone was a bit traumatized,” she said. “It’s one of those where you never think it’s going to happen and it happens.”

When the evacuation order was given, the town’s residents traveled by bus or drove themselves to Laramie, where they were put up in one of seven hotels where the Red Cross and Albany County Office Emergency Management had arranged for them to take shelter.

In the meantime, emergency crews gathered at the Hanna High School parking lot to prepare for action against the flames, said Buchanan.

“I was at the staging area and I was in awe at all the agencies involved and all the resources and how fast they came together,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever show enough gratitude for everybody and everything.”

Firefighters from across southern Wyoming joined in to fight the flames, Buchanan said, along with firefighters from Oregon and agencies from as far away as Colorado Springs.

“It was an an amazing thing,” she said. “I hope we don’t have to go through it again.”

Buchanan credited all of the firefighting forces, organizations such as construction crews working on the Rocky Mountain Power Gateway Project, the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency and Hanna Marshal Jeff Neimark for safely moving Hanna residents to shelter and stopping the flame before they reached the city limits.

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Hanna Residents Back Home After Town Threatened By Wildfire

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Hanna residents were allowed to return to their homes Sunday after the town was evacuated because of a wildfire burning approached the town’s city limits.

The town’s 722 residents were forced to flee Saturday in the face of a rapidly growing wildfire that reached 7,500 acres before its advance toward the town could be stopped.

According to a Facebook post by Gov. Mark Gordon, the 316 Fire grew to 15,000 acres by Sunday.

Faced with winter storm warnings and forecasts of snow by Tuesday, Black Hills Energy technicians visited homes in the community to make sure natural gas service was back online, according to the Carbon County Office of Emergency Management.

The gas service had been shut off Saturday at the request of firefighters to protect against explosions.

“The process of bringing customers back on to the system requires several steps,” said Bow Secrest, gas operations manager for Black Hills Energy. “We must first make sure all gas meters are off, then purge the system so that it’s ready for the reintroduction of the natural gas supply.”

The Office of Emergency Management warned residents that they may smell natural gas as the lines are purged.

Wyoming Game & Fish Releases 700 Endangered Toads Into The Wild

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Oh, hoppy day!

The state’s efforts to boost populations of the endangered Wyoming toad took a step forward recently with the release of 700 of the toads at four sites near Laramie.

The toads were born through a captive breeding effort launched in an effort to restore the species.

The toads were believed to be extinct in 1985, but a small population was found in Albany County in 1987.

Since then the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been working with a number of other agencies, including the University of Wyoming, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish Hatchery System, to increase the wild population of the amphibians.

The June release marked the fifth time 1-year-old toads have been turned loose in the wild, according to a Game and Fish Department news release.

By releasing toads rather than tadpoles, the survival rate of the animals returned to the wild is much better, said Wendy Estes-Zumpf, herpetological coordinator for the Game and Fish Department.

“That really minimizes the typically large — up to 95% — mortality you get from releasing tadpoles,” she said.

In addition, the toads raised in captivity are ready to breed when released, Estes-Zumpf said, while wild toads usually take two to four years to reach breeding size.

Estes-Zumpf said the population of toads in the wild is not yet self-sustaining, but added progress is being made. In 2019, 52 of the adult toads were found in the wild, along with 10 yearlings and a number of younger toads and tadpoles. 

“They’re doing better than they have in the past,” she said. “In the past 10 years the team has developed a strategy for evaluating reintroduction techniques. There has been more research, we’ve seen an increase in the number of toads and we’ve definitely increased our knowledge on the ecology of the toads.”

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Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone Will Slow Down Monday, But Could Flare-Up Again Later This Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park was expected to decrease in intensity Monday, but park staff worried that dry and warmer weather later this week might cause the fire to flare up again.

As predicted, a cold front moved into the area overnight Monday and was expected to bring rain showers to the Yellowstone area that could last much of the day. Snow flurries were also possible.

But warm, dry weather was predicted for later in the week and park officials were concerned that areas of the fire left smoldering by Monday’s cooler, wetter weather could respond by picking up in activity.

The Grand Loop Road and day use areas between Old Faithful and the West Thumb Junction were open Monday, but officials said they could close at any time if the fire activity increased.

Trailheads on the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction remained closed to the public. This included Howard Eaton, Lone Star, Divide and DeLacy Creek trails. 

Many of the campsites around Shoshone Lake and Lone Star Geyser are closed.

The fire picked up over the weekend to involve nearly 960 acres. Nearly 50 personnel were working on the fire as of Monday.

The National Park Service is predicting containment of the fire by Oct. 30.

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Lone Star Fire Stagnates, Grand Loop Reopens Thursday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction will be reopened some time Thursday after rains dampened the 820-are Lone Star Fire in the park, officials announced.

The National Park Service, in an update on the blaze that was sparked Saturday by lightning, said the fire did not grow significantly Wednesday because of heavy rains and thunderstorms in the area Wednesday night.

The Park Service is predicting containment of the fire by Oct. 30.

The fire is burning in stands of lodgepole, spruce and fir and is being worked by 38 firefighters.

Firefighters will also hike into the Howard Eaton and Shoshone Lake trails to observe fire behavior on the heel and northwest flank of the fire and note the effects of Wednesday night’s precipitation.

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Forest Fires Break Out In Shoshone National Forest

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune. Photo by Leslie Patten.

On Wednesday, crews were working to combat a pair of small wildfires that broke out in the Shoshone National Forest — one in Sunlight Basin and another along the Beartooth Highway in the area of Crazy Creek. Fire managers say both were started by lightning.

The Painter Creek Fire started Monday night and was estimated at roughly 2 acres on Wednesday, burning in timber on the east side of Windy Mountain. The mountain sits south of hundreds of acres of private property, including multiple ranches, within the Sunlight area of the Shoshone.

Firefighters were also looking to snuff out the Crazy Creek Fire, which was detected Tuesday evening east of the Crazy Creek Campground. It, too, was estimated at about 2 acres and fire managers said it’s not posing a threat to any structures.

“Resources from the Painter Fire were reassigned to the new fire [at Crazy Creek] and were quickly able to stop any further fire growth just before dark,” Shoshone officials said.

Three helicopters (one light, one medium and one heavy) have responded to both fires, with 16 smokejumpers working the Painter fire and a contracted 20-person crew and local Shoshone resources on the Crazy Creek Fire.

Kristie Salzmann, a spokeswoman for the Shoshone, said Tuesday that firefighters have been working to put out new fires “as quickly as possible.”

“In this unique year that we are in, we’re trying to keep fire camps small or non-existent,” Salzmann added, referring to COVID-19-related precautions. “So we are hitting fires with as much aerial resources — whether it be water or retardant, depending on the situation — to try and extinguish fires as soon as possible.”

Conditions have become increasingly dry in Wyoming in recent weeks, with officials in neighboring Yellowstone National Park implementing backcountry fire restrictions on Friday amid “very high” fire danger.

The Lone Star Fire, burning about 3 miles south of Old Faithful, had grown to more than 820 acres by Wednesday morning, with 38 personnel assigned to the fire. It was 0% contained, but has been spreading to the northeast and away from Old Faithful, park officials say.

Both the Old Faithful area and the West Thumb Geyser Basin remain fully open — along with all five park entrances. However, the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb Junction remains closed due to the road’s “proximity to fire, impacts from smoke and increased fire traffic,” park officials said Tuesday. That’s requiring some visitors to make detours when traveling through Yellowstone.

Also on Tuesday, Bighorn National Forest officials announced that the Freeze Out Fire — located near Freeze Out Point on the northeastern side of the forest — has been fully contained after burning through 10 acres.

“No injuries were reported, and fire personnel are thankful for logistical support from local businesses,” said Sara Evans Kirol, a spokeswoman for the Bighorn Forest.

Lightning had started that fire around Aug. 19 and led to the temporary closure of the area surrounding the wildfire.

Yellowstone officials noted Tuesday that “fire activity in the western United States has created smoky conditions throughout the region” and that the country is currently in Preparedness Level 5 — “the highest level of fire activity and demand for resources.”

“All residents and visitors can assist fire efforts by strictly following any fire restrictions to reduce the potential of additional starts,” park officials said.

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Size of Lone Star Fire In Yellowstone Increases

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park grew by 58 acres on Tuesday, bringing the size of the fire that began Saturday to 821 acres.

According to an update from the National Park Service, the fire remained fairly inactive throughout Tuesday morning, but picked up in the afternoon due to increased temperatures and gusty winds.

There were also a number of small spot fires in front of the fire’s perimeter, some as far as one-half mile away. A large spot fire to the south of the main blaze was found Tuesday night through an infrared flight.

The fire grew on its southwest and northeast edges, pushing away from the Old Faithful area toward Grand Loop Road. Thirty-eight personnel are currently assigned to the fire.

Fire personnel will continue to assess the Old Faithful area for risks to its structures. The fire has forced the closure of the area’s main road from Old Faithful to West Thumb Junction.

The fire was ignited ignited Saturday evening by a lightning strike.

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