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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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Western Wildfires: ‘Log It, Graze It, Or Watch It Burn’

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Nine miles south of the single acre of land I own in the mountains, the huge Mullen Fire had burned 176,840 acres in the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains as of last week.

Now there’s a sobering thought.

The fire has been burning since mid September, and is now 69 percent contained, thanks to the efforts of almost 1,000 firefighters, fleets of fire-fighting equipment, and slurry bombing airplanes.

Between my little acre and the massive fire to the south are Libby Flats, Medicine Bow Peak, and other peaks, which are above timberline, providing an effective fire barrier.

Still, nine miles is small comfort when I consider the safety of the mountain property I have owned for 39 years, and the small log cabin a friend and I built in the 1980s.

Before the Mullen Fire started, I drove through the area that would be hardest hit, along the Wyoming/Colorado border. Along Highway 230, I was amazed at the miles of dead timber lining the road.

The massive pine bark beetle infestation, first noted in 1996, ravaged huge tracts of land in Wyoming and Colorado, and today, 24 years later, the amount of standing dead timber is staggering.

In 2008, I had a visit from a local fire department official at my cabin. He was promoting a state program encouraging landowners to cut down trees near their cabins. The state of Wyoming would pay up to $2,000 (later $2,200) for labor and chainsaw time to make cabins less likely to burn.

“I bought this land because of the trees,” I told the guy. “I don’t want to cut them down.”

“A lot of them are already dead, Dave,” he replied.

After some thought, I agreed to participate, and he came back to mark trees – most of them dead – around my cabin, and I got to work with my small chainsaw.

But getting rid of all the dead trees was far bigger than anything I could handle, so in July of 2011 I had a young guy who had vast experience cutting trees with the Bureau of Land Management cut down 65 very large trees on my land.

I had a much larger chainsaw by then, and got to work cutting up logs even as he was bringing more trees crashing to the ground. It was a huge mess, with felled trees lying everywhere.

The work cleaning up would go on for years. About five years ago, I hacked up and stacked the last of those dead trees, and have spent the remaining summers splitting the logs, carrying them back to my fire pit and burning them. It’s quite an exercise routine.

Next summer will be 10 years since we cut down those 65 trees, and I’ve still got a couple summers to go before the last of that dead timber has been split, hauled and burned.

And I’m just dealing with one acre, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in the Medicine Bow National Forest, and millions of beetle dead standing trees.

The growing threat in recent years is long dead trees, rotted out over the years at the roots, and blown over by the wind. In one day last summer, I saw two large trees – one on the edge of my property – simply crashing to the ground on a windy day.

Many of my neighbors participated in the program to clear trees around cabins, so our little community – about 100 lots in size – is in better shape than the surrounding national forest.

So far, we have been lucky and not had large fires in our neck of the woods. We have put a lot of hours and sweat into properly maintaining our land, but we could easily be consumed if a conflagration like the Mullen Fire comes our way.

On the radio a couple weeks ago, the Nelson brothers of Clear Out West Radio related this western advice when it comes to maintaining land:

“Log it, graze it, or watch it burn.”

There’s the distinct feeling that unless something changes in the management of our national forest neighbor, watching it burn is a real possibility.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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

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

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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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Monday Morning Mullen Update: Fire Is Now 151,700 Acres

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest is now at 14% containment level and has grown to 151,700 acres, officials announced on Monday morning.

Monday will be a “red flag” day, where fire conditions are considered extreme, since humidity levels are low and winds will blow from the west direction, but will adjust to the northwest later in the day. Wind gusts could be up to 35 mph throughout the day with active burning throughout.

In a Monday morning update posted to Facebook, Deon Steinley, a Rocky Mountain Incident Management team member, noted that the Mountain Home area in Albany County has been a major focus for firefighting teams.

“There’s a particular division in the southern portion that has been a really critical area for us,” he said. “We’ve got the Mountain Home community down here that we’ve got resources to protect and suppress the fire.”

He added that crews have been working to add burn lines to help stop the fire or keep it at bay as much as possible.

Smoke production will also be high on Monday and will spread to the east.

The smoke will be persistent in the North Platte and Laramie River valleys on Monday morning, but the winds will transport it to northeast Colorado later in the morning, according to a release posted to the Mullen Fire Information Facebook page.

Smoke will return to the area late Monday night and will affect the air quality on Tuesday as well.

Critical fire weather conditions are possible again Tuesday and warm and dry conditions are expected through the week. Gusty winds are predicted for Tuesday and Thursday.

On Sunday, firefighters conducted successful intentional burn operations in several locations around the perimeter of the fire to widen existing firelines, but structure protection remains a priority throughout the fire area.

Just over 1,100 personnel were working to combat the fire as of Monday morning.

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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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Mullen Fire Saturday Morning Update: 137K Acres, 6% Contained

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Mullen Fire Operations Brief – Saturday, October 3rd

Mullen Fire Operations Brief from Deon Steinle, Operations Section Chief Trainee, for Sunday, October 3rd.

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Saturday, October 3, 2020

Firefighters on Saturday estimated the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest has grown to nearly 137 thousand acres based on an aerial infrared measurement made at 11 p.m. Friday.

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team reported the fire is 6% contained as of Saturday morning, and because of a weak cold front that came through the area overnight, growth of the fire on Saturday was expected to slow.

“We had good humidity recovery last night and that humidity and moisture got into the fine fuels, the grasses, and it will slow the fire down a little bit and it will take longer for the fuels to dry out,” Rocky Mountain Incident Meteorologist Chip Redmond said on Saturday morning.

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However, the forecasted weather is not favorable to firefighting, he said.

“Monday is starting to set off some some flags,” he said. “We’re going to see strong west, maybe slightly northwest winds with critically low humidity. So it could be a high fire weather day.”

“And that’s going to be the trend unfortunately for most of a week. The conditions are going to vary day by day, but overall warm, almost very warm. Above average temperatures very dry and breezy throughout the week,” he said.

He said there was a “glimmer of hope” as there could be a weather pattern change next weekend which could bring precipitation to the area.

As for protection of homes, cabins, and other buildings, the team said structure protection in Rambler, the Rob Roy area, Keystone, Lake Creek, Fox Park and Albany is established. New structure protection resources are focusing on communities to the west of Hwy 230 and south into Colorado.

“Yesterday we did have to do some firing around some structures in Foxborough with very positive results from that,” Incident Team spokesman Deon Steinle said.  “We feel with we’ve got a really good buffer around those those Foxborough structures now and we’ll continue to have resources in there taking care of any hotspots and, and creeping fire that might be of concern.”

Fire crews are still working in evacuated areas to extinguish hot spots and remove hazards. For public and firefighter safety, evacuations will remain in effect until conditions change or risks are reduced, officials said.

“Fire crews are working along roads and accessible areas to reduce vegetation where they have the highest probability of success at limiting fire spread,” the team said.

Better overnight humidity recovery and cooler temperatures today will decrease fire activity a bit today until early afternoon. Northwest winds are expected in that timeframe. West winds Sunday will impact fire activity to the east.

The Mullen fire burn back from the dozer line.

Posted by Maya Mickey Haynes on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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Friday Night Mullen Update: Fire Contained At 6%

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters battling the 128,700-acre Mullen Fire have been able to complete a containment line around 6% of the blaze, officials said Friday.

Firefighters worked to create fuel breaks between roads and the main body of the fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest on Friday, relying on logging operations to help reduce heavy fuels around the Rambler, Foxborough and Fox Park areas, said Deon Steinley, a fire management team official.

On the west side of Albany, burnout operations are gradually moving west along the 513 and 542 Roads, according to fire tracking website InciWeb. On the south side, burnouts are continuing along the north sides of the Colorado Highways 127 and 125 to slow the fire’s spread south.

Meadow Plains Road south to Yankee Road and areas near Sheep Mountain to the Lake Hattie Reservoir and north of Highway 230 are now under a pre-evacuation warning.

In their evening update streamed to Facebook, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials said that the fire had grown to affect 128,738 acres and 1,097 people are working to combat the fire.

In all areas of the fire, aerial firefighters are supporting personnel on the ground.

Fire managers’ goal is full suppression of the Mullen Fire. Firefighters will extinguish the fire as soon as possible, and keep it as small as possible, while reducing risks to the public and firefighters.

The active behavior of both the Mullen Fire and Cameron Peak Fire is creating increasing smoke impacts to southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

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Friday Morning Mullen Update: More than 1K People Working To Combat Fire

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire grew again overnight, reaching nearly 130,000 acres as of Friday morning.

The fire has affected 127,503 acres, according to fire tracking website InciWeb. More than 1,000 personnel are working to slow the fire’s spread and protecting valuables at risk all over the fire area.

Fire managers expected another day of active fire behavior on Friday, thanks largely breezy winds.

On Thursday, firefighters conducted a successful burnout operation along the north sides of the Colorado Highways 125 and 127 to block the fire’s advance to the south by removing fuels from the roadsides.

When conditions are favorable either Friday or sometime over the weekend, firefighters will continue burnout operations to remove additional fuels between the roads and the main body of the fire. Those burnouts may include aerial firing operations.

Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team spokesman John Peterson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that firefighters would see more active fire conditions and that red flag conditions were predicted for the day.

He added that the crews didn’t believe the Mullen Fire would end up merging with the Cameron Peak Fire currently burning down in Colorado, which is about 30 miles away from the southernmost portion of Mullen.

“We have been really doing some prep in the three-way area where Wyoming Highway 230 turns into Colorado Highway 125,” Peterson said. “That’s where the fire is moving right now. Everywhere else has been pretty static.”

Peterson said crews were hoping to keep the fire at bay at its current point in Colorado, which it crossed into earlier this week.

In other areas of the fire, burnout operations are also planned along roads, fire lines and natural features to limit the fire’s spread.

On Thursday night, the main body of the fire was active north of the two Colorado highways and out of an abundance of caution, the sheriff of Jackson County, Colorado, called for an additional mandatory evacuation in the area of Highway 127.

The weather over the weekend is predicted to be much cooler on Saturday, with gusty northwest winds and increased cloud cover. Warmer conditions are expected to return Sunday and Monday, with winds shifting to come from the west.

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Thursday Night Mullen Fire Update: 118k Acre Fire “A Beast By Any Stretch of the Imagination”

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Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Thursday, October 1, 2020

Although firefighters have not been able to establish containment lines around the 118,000-acre Mullen Fire, they have successfully battled the fire in a number of other ways, a member of the fire management team battling the flames said Thursday.

Bill Waln, deputy incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team, said the more than 900 firefighters now working the fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest have been able to make advances in building fire lines to slow the fire’s spread and have been able to protect both humans and buildings.

“We’re learning how to redefine success on this fire,” he said during a briefing Thursday evening. “It’s a beast by any stretch of imagination. It just wants to go and go.”

About 60 buildings, including 29 homes and 31 outbuildings, have been destroyed near Lower Keystone, Lake Creek and Foxborough, but Waln said many more buildings have been saved.

“Yes, we’ve lost a few homes and that is not a very good thing,” he said. “But we’ve saved a lot more homes and a lot of values at risk have been protected.”

One of the priorities for firefighters Thursday was conducting controlled burns along Colorado Highway 127 to create a buffer to the fire as it continues moving to the south and further into Colorado, said Deon Steinle, operations section chief trainee for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team.

“We’re wanting to do this in anticipation of continued wind events and low humidity,” he said. “If we can get this fire line in, it will provide a very good buffer to any more spread.”

He added that as firefighters move inside the perimeter of the fire, they’re finding that the fire burned quickly and moved on without leaving long-lasting areas of flames.

“What we’re seeing is really good consumption in this fire,” he said. “Which means (fuels) burn pretty quickly and then they’ll be out. It doesn’t linger a really long time.”

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Thursday Morning Mullen Update: Fire Rages To 117K Acres, Mail Delivery Halted In Areas

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest continued to grow Wednesday night, reaching 117,420 acres as of Thursday morning.

As the fire expanded to the south, crossing over the Colorado border in some cases, the the U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday morning that due to danger from the fire, mail delivery has been curtailed to some addresses in the Fox Park, Albany and Jelm areas.

Fox Park and Albany are among the areas that have been evacuated in the last few days as the fire has spread.

Fire activity was expected to be high on Thursday, officials announced on the fire tracking website InciWeb. A crew of 934 personnel were working to combat the fire as of Thursday morning, and more were expected to arrive over the next few days.

On Wednesday night when winds were favorable, firefighters conducted burnout operations to limit the fire’s spread by removing fuels along roads, fire lines and natural features.

They also began a control line west of Albany to improve the defense of areas east of the Rob Roy Reservoir, Cheyenne’s main water source.

Southeast of the fire, firefighters worked to interrupt the fire’s progression by burning out fuels on the west side of Wyoming Highway 230 and Colorado Highway 127 on the state border.

Firefighters also spent Wednesday night preparing structures for possible impacts from the fire and defended homes in and near the fire footprint.

A weak cold front was expected to cross the fire area early Thursday, boosting humidity levels slightly and keeping temperatures relatively cool.

A stronger cold front was predicted to reach the area Friday evening, bringing increased cloud cover, breezy winds and cooler temperatures by Saturday.

Winds will shift in a western direction and temperatures will again rise on Sunday and Monday.

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Wednesday Night Mullen Update: Fire Reaches 103K Acres

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Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has officially spread to more than 100,000 acres, officials announced Wednesday evening.

During a Facebook livestream news conference, officials provided updates about the fire activity on Wednesday, the resources needed and new evacuation orders.

As of Wednesday evening, the fire has affected 103,542 acres, according to Deon Stein, lead planning operations manager of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Blue Team.

As the fire spread south toward the Colorado border, the Roach and Hohnholz areas in northwest Larimer County, Colorado, were evacuated due to imminent danger. Wyoming Highway 230 to Riverside was closed until further notice, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.

The fire was active on Wednesday, meaning that resources had to be diverted to keep it at bay, Stein told viewers during the update.

U.S. Forest Service Meteorologist Brad Anderson said the air quality in Cheyenne would likely decline on Thursday, due to smoke from both the Mullen and Colorado’s Cameron Peak fires.

Team incident commander Michael Hayden said during the livestream that although nearly 1,000 people (887 as of Wednesday evening) are working to combat the fire, he wanted more.

“We want more resources to go out there and protect structures, bridges, values and the forest overall,” Hayden said.

He added that it is likely the Rocky Mountain team will be replaced in the coming days by the National Incident Management Team, a Type I fire management team, usually assigned to the most complex type of wildfire.

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Wednesday Morning Mullen Update: 29 Houses Lost, Fire Almost To 100K Acres

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire continued to grow in size overnight Tuesday, reaching 96,757 acres as of Wednesday morning.

There are now 887 personnel working to defend homes in and near the fire and more help will continue to arrive throughout the week, according to fire tracking website InciWeb. Firefighters worked throughout the night Tuesday to aggressively defend structures.

The fire was expected to be active Wednesday in the face of warm temperatures, winds gusting to 20 mph and low humidity.

Crews were working to slow fire progression along the North Platte River and a fleet of 20 aircraft have been critical in cooling the fire’s edge and assisting with structure protection.

Firefighters are also working to limit fire growth in key areas south of the fire such as Albany, Sheep Mountain, Highway 230 near Woods Landing, Foxborough, Fox Park, Rob Roy and the southwestern corner of the fire near Six Mile Campground.

“Because this fire is so large, we’re having to do some pretty strategic prioritization to try to limit spread and limit impact to infrastructure, values and risk and communities,” said Deon Steinle, operations section chief trainee for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team battling the flames.

Fire managers have been shifting resources between divisions as needed to responded to changing fire conditions. The fire is expected to move south to the Colorado border due to strong winds and various fuels in the forest.

Smoke was expected to fill the skies on Wednesday until the inversion breaks. Visibility will then increase with breezy north and northwest winds gusting up to 20 mph.

On Tuesday, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office announced that 38 property owners have lost property due to the fire, a total of 29 houses and 31 outbuildings in the lower Keystone, Lake Creek and Foxborough areas.

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Tuesday Night Mullen Fire Update: 60 Buildings Damaged, Dry Windy Weather to Continue

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

UPDATED AT 5:30 P.M. TUESDAY, SEPT. 29

At least 60 buildings inside the Medicine Bow National Forest have been damaged by the Mullen Fire, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

Undersheriff Josh DeBree, speaking during the nightly briefing on the 82,600-acre Mullen Fire, said officials were able to get to the Lower Keystone, Lake Creek and Foxborough areas on the fire’s southern edge to assess damages.

He said officials determined that 29 homes and 31 outbuildings on 38 pieces of property had been damaged by the fire that started on Sept. 17.

“On behalf of everyone working on the fire, our hearts to out to anyone who lost property,” he said.

The damage came despite the efforts of firefighters to protect structures threatened by the flames from the fire and forest Supervisor Russ Bacon said without the efforts of the firefighters, the damage would have been worse.

“Without their amazing work in the last week, we likely would have lost more property,” he said.

On Tuesday, Chris Zoller, the operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team management group, said the efforts of the more than 700 firefighters battling the flames remained focused on protecting structures inside the fire’s perimeter and in the areas where the fire is expected to spread.

He added that as officials had expected, dry, windy weather Tuesday led to increased fire activity.

Bacon reminded listeners to the briefing that long-term weather forecasts indicated the fire could go on for quite some time.

“A key point to recognize and acknowledge is that we are in this thing for the long haul,” he said. “Because of where we are at in terms of weather conditions and fuel conditions, we’ve got several weeks ahead of us of significant fire impact.”

______________________________________________________________________________

Fire crews planned to use retardant on the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest on Tuesday to strategically pre-treat areas adjacent to structures at risk.

This was one of the announcements made Tuesday morning on the fire tracking website InciWeb. The fire has now affected 82,649 acres and is at 0% containment.

No containment will be declared until the heat detected on the fire’s perimeter has fallen low enough to make it unlikely that the fire will grow beyond any established fire line. This involves monitoring the fire line and adjacent areas for several days for smoldering stumps, trees, ash pits or any other heat sources.

Crews will conduct fire severity assessments this week. Often, fires will burn in a mosaic pattern, leaving pockets of burned and unburned fuels.

However, when a fire with high intensity quickly moves through an area, it might leave larger swaths of blackened soil and vegetation. This will factor into whether any stabilization or rehabilitation may be needed at a later date.

Warmer temperatures are expected to return to the area along with drier air and gusting winds, which will result in near-critical fire weather conditions, officials said.

Increased fire activity is likely the next several days and extreme fire behavior is possible. 

On Monday, crews worked on structure protection in multiple communities, including developed areas close to the fire’s perimeter and those a few miles further to the south and west.

Aircraft were heavily utilized on Monday to drop water on the fire after crews spent the weekend dealing with strong, gusty winds. Firefighters also prioritized assessing properties for any damaged or destroyed buildings.

Albany County Sheriff’s officers will contact affected homeowners.

Additional crews have been reassigned to the Mullen Fire after being released from working fires in the Pacific Northwest. This has increased the number of people working the fire to 738 as of Tuesday.

A number of roads have been closed, including WY 11 from the junction with County Road 47 into Albany, County Road 47 between WYO 11 and WYO 230, WY 230 from the Colorado border to Meadow Plains Road. There is no estimate on when these roads might reopen.

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Mullen Fire Back Down To 0% Containment

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Monday was expected to be a big day when it came to combating the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest, the fire is now back down to 0% containment, the U.S. Forest Service announced late Monday.

According to information posted to fire tracking website InciWeb, the fire has now affected 80,279 acres and containment was reduced after recent growth on the southwest edge of the fire.

A large and growing number of firefighters continue to “aggressively” defend homes in Foxborough and other communities in and near the fire footprint.

The crew size has also grown on Monday, with 738 people working to combat the fire.

Tuesday is expected to bring much warmer weather with “very dry air.” Critical fire weather is expected due to this and breezy northwest winds.

Wednesday and Thursday are predicted to be slightly cooler than Tuesday, as well as the remainder of the week. However, the weather will still be dry and humidities will be low.

The breezy northwest winds will continue throughout this period, which could cause the fire to again grow.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Chris Zoller, operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team managing firefighting efforts, said air tankers and helicopters were able to make water and fire retardant dumps on the fire Monday.

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Gov. Gordon Directs State Resources to Provide Support on Mullen Fire

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has directed numerous state resources to provide assistance and support to affected communities and teams battling the Mullen Fire. 

The fire is burning largely on the Medicine Bow National Forest as well as some adjacent private lands. As of the morning of September 28, the fire is estimated at approximately 77,950 acres, with only 2% containment. A large portion of the forest is currently under a closure order and mandatory evacuations have been ordered for a number of communities. 

The Governor has been in constant communication with members of the incident management team and the Wyoming State Forestry Division to monitor the fire and response. 

“I want to express my gratitude to the firefighters and support personnel who are battling to protect structures in the affected areas,” Governor Gordon said. “These folks have been working very hard in a well-coordinated effort under extremely difficult conditions.”

The fire is being managed by the Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team, a Type 2 National Incident Management Team composed of federal and non-federal personnel that is experienced in managing the response efforts of large-scale national disasters. Currently there are 525 people assigned to the Mullen Fire. Task forces of additional firefighters from multiple Wyoming fire departments provided support over the weekend as well. Commercial aviation resources being utilized include 2 super scoopers, 4 single-engine air tankers, and 9 helicopters. Two heavy tankers are also available. 

The multi-agency state response to the fire includes personnel from Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming State Forestry Division. The Wyoming Army National Guard’s Laramie Armory is being utilized as an incident command post. Wyoming Game and Fish is allowing hunters with specific license types in the area of the Mullen Creek Fire to seek a carryover to 2021 or a refund due to limited access in the Snowy Range.

The state has also made Emergency Fire Suppression Account (EFSA) funding available to Albany and Carbon counties. These grants provide funds for the cost of suppression and mop-up of qualifying emergency wildland fires.

The State of Wyoming has received a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declaration to support fire suppression efforts taking place on private lands. The authorization makes FEMA funding available to pay 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires.

Residents interested in making donations should be aware that teams working the fire are well-equipped. Donations can be directed to the American Red Cross of Wyoming, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation or local volunteer fire departments.

Regular fire updates are being posted to the Mullen Fire Facebook page and on Inciweb.

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Monday Morning Mullen Fire Update: Aircraft Critical To Today’s Fire Operations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a return of warmer weather on Monday, crews battling the 80,270-acre Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest were able to make some progress in protecting structures in the path of the flames with the assistance of airborne resources, officials said.

Chris Zoller, operations section chief for the Rocky Mountain Blue Team managing firefighting efforts, said air tankers and helicopters were able to make water and fire retardant dumps on the fire Monday.

Officials had said early in the day that the aircraft would pay a larger role Monday than they did over the weekend, when first winds gusting to 70 mph and then low-hanging clouds restricted flights.

“We anticipate seeing a lot of aircraft today,” Rocky Mountain Incident Management team member Chris Zoller said Monday morning in an update.

In the evening update, Zoller said several air crews were working to prevent the fire’s spread to the south in the face of northwesterly winds.

He added that officials were able to lift evacuation orders for the area from Sodergreen Lake near Wyoming Highway 230 north to Lake Hattie and east of Sheep Mountain, where firefighters were sent to extinguish a spot fire.

Incident Commander Jared Hohn said with the calmer weather, firefighters were able to make progress in protecting structures and infrastructure in the forest.

“We had a really good day of work for our men and women on the fire line,” he said during Monday’s briefing.

As of Monday evening, the fire had affected 80,279 acres, according to fire tracking website InciWeb.

John Peterson, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, told Cowboy State Daily that crews were taking full advantage of cooler temperatures and moderate winds seen since Sunday that helped to keep the fire somewhat at bay over the last 24 hours.

Peterson explained that many of the aircraft are able to suck water out of a nearby lake source (Lake Hattie, for example) and drop it onto the fire, making efforts to fight the fire much more efficient than dropping fire retardant on the flames.

“If you think about it, with retardant, an aircraft has to go to an airport, get the retardant, fly away, drop it and then come all the way back,” Peterson said. “It takes so much time. So since we have these aircraft, we can really focus on keeping the fire at bay.”

Since this week’s temperatures and winds will be lower than what was seen last week, when 70 mph winds pushed the fire to grow more than 30,000 acres in a single day, crews can begin focusing efforts on containment later this week, Peterson said.

Protection of the Rob Roy reservoir has been especially critical, as it is the main water source for the city of Cheyenne.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of Monday. More than 500 people are currently working to combat the fire.

This story was updated Monday evening to include information from the daily briefing.

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Sunday Evening Mullen Fire Update: Lower Temps, Higher Humidity Slowing Growth of Fire

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Mullen Fire Operations Brief – Sunday, September 27th

Below is the Mullen Fire Operations Brief from Chris Zoller, Operations Section Chief, RMA Blue Team for Sunday, September 27th. This evening at 5 p.m. the Team will host a Live Q&A on Facebook.

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Sunday, September 27, 2020

UPDATE AT 7 P.M. SUNDAY:

Although the fire continues to rage, decreased winds, cooler temperatures and rising humidity levels managed to keep it from growing significantly in acreage, at least for a while.

This was just one of the updates provided in the virtual community meeting on Sunday afternoon by the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

The fire’s size was estimated to be at nearly 77,000 acres as of Sunday evening, Rocky Mountain Incident Managment member Chris Zoller said during the update.

“Overall today, everything was quite subdued compared to yesterday,” Zoller said. “Winds are quite a bit less than what we saw yesterday and we actually received some moisture.”

While the temperatures kept the fire at bay on Sunday, this is expected to reverse sometime this week, meaning that the fire could again grow.

The fire is still at 2% containment, one week after this originally happened.

More than 450 people are currently working to combat the fire as of Sunday.

______________________________________________________________________________

Although there hasn’t been much good news as of yet regarding the Mullen Fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest, there was at least better news on Sunday.

In Sunday morning’s incident update, the official size of the fire was not expanded, remaining at 68,138 acres.

Chris Zoller, Operations Section Chief for the Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team, said the next two days should see slower fire growth because of the favorable weather.

“Our projections are showing not a lot of movement because we’ve got some cooler temperatures and some higher humidities,” Zoller said. “We hopefully won’t see the large growth that we’ve seen in the last couple days.”

Zoller said the peak wind gusts have dropped dramatically from the more than over 70 mph seen Saturday to around 35 mph.

The Blue Team reported in its daily Incident Update that firefighters had success on Saturday holding off the fire in many locations, including the Rambler community, and stopped it from advancing further toward Rob Roy Reservoir.

As for fire growth Sunday, because of the changing direction of the winds, the fire was expected to grow to the south and southeast.

From the Incident Update:

On the southwest flank, fire extended a short distance over the North Platte River, and firefighters promptly began working to prevent more growth. On the northeast, fire crossed the Fox Creek road and moved into the Squirrel Burn area, prompting another Forest closure.

The lower portion of the fire continued pushing beyond Lake Owen to Fox Creek Road. 

The leading edge slowed as it entered a previously burned area, then crossed WY 230 in a position to threaten Woods Landing and Jelm. 

With wind gusts reaching 70 mph at times, fire managers recommended a mandatory evacuation of multiple communities in Albany County. (See list below.)

Today, firefighters focus on protecting structures in two ways. Ahead of the fire, they are assessing and preparing structures for the possible advance of the fire as the wind shifts and the fire moves to the southeast. 

Behind the flaming front, firefighters are entering communities as quickly as possible to perform structure protection actions. Damage assessment information is not yet available. Aerial support will continue as weather conditions allow. 

Task Forces of additional firefighters from multiple Wyoming fire departments have arrived to assist crews. 

Mandatory Evacuations

See the Albany County Sheriff FB page for the latest list at: https://www.facebook.com/Albany-County-Sheriffs-Office-618424944997540

East of HWY 11 along Sheep Mountain, from Fox Creek Road, North to Hecht Creek. The communities of Lake Creek, Rambler, Rob Roy area, Wold, Beehive, Pelton Creek Mountain Home, Graham and adjacent areas, Fox Park, Foxborough, Albany, Woods Landing. EVERYTHING along HWY 10 to the Colorado State Line.  

Areas near Sheep Landing to Lake Hattie Reservoir and NORTH of HWY230. Fox Creek Road including areas west of HWY 11 south of the Middle Fork Canyon. Keystone Communities: Keystone Proper, Lower Keystone, Langford/Ricker, Moore’s Gulch, 507C Cabin grouping

Centennial remains on pre-evacuation

Closures and Restrictions

Wyoming 11 is closed between Wyoming 130 and Albany. Wyoming 230 is closed from Wyoming 10 to the Colorado border. There is no estimate on when these roads might reopen.

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Brian Harmsen: Years of Activism Turned Medicine Bow Forest Into Ticking Time Bomb

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By Brian Harmsen, guest columnist

Many of you “locals” have been following what’s going on with the Mullen Fire. It’s hard not to when our “sunny Saturday” looks like this?  

So, in the span of 48 hours, the Mullen Fire has grown from about 17,000 acres to what our Governor reported this morning as “over 80,000 acres.” 

It was at over 25,000 acres yesterday morning and tripled in size in a single day. Just for comparison, the Cameron Peak Fire across the border in Colorado started almost six weeks ago and is at 111,000 acres as of this morning. 

The cabin communities of Keystone and Lake Creek have been evacuated and overrun. Structure losses in either have yet to be reported as crews haven’t been able to return yet.

The communities of Foxpark and Albany were evacuated last night. Woods Landing was evacuated earlier today. As of now, everyone between the fire and the Colorado border has been ordered out. Centennial is under a pre-evacuation order. 

This is country many of us know fairly well. I’ve fished on Douglas Creek, Rob Roy, and Lake Owen. Hunted Savage Run and Muddy Mountain. Cut Firewood on Centennial Ridge.

Camped at Muddy Creek Dry Park and Lake Creek. I’ve snowmobiled all of these roads in the winter and enjoyed weekend drives across them in the summer. Since 1992. 

In those 28 years, I’ve watched this area evolve from a ticking bomb into the nuclear disaster it is today.  Roads that were easily passable in a 4×4 pickup in 1995 were like trying to drive up 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.

It was difficult packing elk quarters out over miles of deadfall timber in 1992 – I’m not sure I could do it today being 28 years older and significantly more deadfall in the way?  

I attended a National Interagency Fire Center Conference in 2009 where the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests were referred by one speaker as “the Dead Forest,” as an estimated seven out of every ten trees were expected to die due to a Rocky Mountain Pune Beetle infestation. 

Let’s go back a few more years. In 1978, I did a Forestry project in 4-H on the Rocky Mountain Pine beetle. 

While I learned a lot about the beetle itself, I also learned that trees do survive attacks. Given adequate water and nutrients, healthy trees literally “flush” the beetles right out the holes they came in.

That project went to the Colorado State Fair where it was recognized as “Reserve Grand Champion” that year. 

How do we achieve healthy trees, though?  They grow where they want to, and they often grow so close to other trees that they come into competition with them for the nutrients and water necessary for them to remain healthy.

Just because it’s “a forest” doesn’t mean that if has soil and water conducive to growing an unlimited number of healthy trees. So, unchecked, it grows a whole lot of “unhealthy” trees instead. Such trees become the preferred victim of the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle. 

I can remember “beetle trees” for almost as long as I can remember being in the forests they occurred in from the mid-1970s.

I know we’ve talked about extreme drought since the late 1980s, but the beetles were here before that. Drought became “climate change”. But climate change didn’t bring the beetles either – unhealthy trees did.  

I used to watch the big log trucks from San Juan logging run up and down the Piedra Road when I was a kid.

I watched similar trucks from Heggie Logging, Nieman Sawmills, as well as numerous independent operators do the same thing through the 1980s into mills in places like Fox Park, Hulett, and Spearfish. Yes, beetles were present, as was an occasional fire. 

Something changed in the 1990s.  As a country, we seemed to become more “environmentally conscious.” 

The time-proven management processes of logging, grazing, and controlled burning became seen as exploitative and a source of pollution.

In the late 1990s, I became more aware of groups like Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in my hometown of Laramie, whose membership zealously fought every timber sale, every commercial use, even some recreational uses in the courts, using the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) to either bully the Forest Service into capitulating to their demands (“settling out of court”) versus the Forest Service risking having to pay hefty “Environmental Attorney Fees” should the judge rule against the agency. 

The Forest Service began putting locked gates across roads I’d used for years or outright “obliterating” them.

I stopped seeing log trucks. Since the logging companies were doing most of the road maintenance, the roads started falling into disrepair.

With no revenue coming in from timber sales, Forest Service campgrounds started to also fall into disrepair and close.

Many of us saw our forest and the agency struggling to care for them in a death spiral. Unmanaged, unchecked forests became overgrown and unhealthy. 

Somewhat more alarming, I also began to notice that the apolitical professionals who’d been managing our national forests were retiring or being forced out of the agency, making room for “advocates” who often ingratiated themselves to, if not actively supported, the activist groups that had been suing them. 

Here we are today. We need to rip the management of our public lands out of the clutches of the activist groups and activist courts – or at least demonetize litigation as a source of revenue for them.

We need to put that management back into the hands of unbiased, career professionals. 

Our Medicine Bow National Forest will never be the same. It will be different. It will be new.

Col. Brian Harmsen (Retired) has appreciated and enjoyed our Wyoming outdoors as a resident of more than 40 years. He is originally from Sundance but has also lived in Laramie and Cheyenne.

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Saturday Evening: Mullen Fire Now Estimated at 69,138 Acres; 70mph+ Winds

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Pushed by winds of more than 70mph, the Mullen Fire burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest west of Laramie grew by more than 30,000 acres Saturday afternoon and now totals 69,138 acres.

John Peterson, information officer for the Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team, told Cowboy State Daily that the near-doubling of the affected land is due to 70-plus mph plus winds that spread the fire in all locations.

“The winds are really wreaking havoc on managing this fire. Not only in the intensity — which is extraordinary — but in the wind direction,” Peterson said.

“I know people in Wyoming know that the wind is something else, but this is extraordinary for us to have a big fire like this and to have the wind blowing in so many different directions with such high intensity,” he said.

After advancing 8 miles to the east on Friday, winds Saturday widened the fire perimeter, pushing it closer to Woods Landing, Chris Zoller, the Blue Team’s operations section chief, said during a Saturday night briefing.

The fire did not advance significantly on its western or northwestern edge on Saturday, Zoller said.

Woods Landing has already been evacuated, but the fire team on Saturday called for the evacuation of areas east of the community, he said.

“We were looking at 70 mph winds,” he said. “We had to get people out of there so if it did go out into the prairie, we didn’t have to worry about the people in front of it.”

Shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office announced a mandatory evacuation, effective immediately for Wold, Beehive, Graham, Mountain Home and adjacent areas. Due to fire conditions, the preferred evacuation route was to the south.

A mandatory full evacuation was also ordered for areas near Sheep Mountain to Lake Hattie Reservoir and North of HWY-230. The preferred evacuation route is HWY 230 and travel East. Big Hollow Road to HWY 130 and travel East is also an option.

As of Saturday night, Zoller said he believed an evacuation was not in the immediate future for the town of Centennial.

“Centennial, you’re not out of the woods yet, but you’re looking really good for today and (Sunday) for sure,” he said.

Peterson said some relief is on the way with cooler temperatures and diminishing winds on Sunday.

“Tomorrow things will settle down a bit. It will still be windy but humidity will increase significantly,” he said. “There’s a chance for snow flurries tomorrow. No accumulation with the cloud-cover it will increase the humidity and drop the temperatures.  Both of which affect fire intensity.”

However, conditions will dry again by Monday and Tuesday, Chip Redmond, the management team’s meteorologist, said during the briefing.

“We expect gusts all week” he said. “It is fall in Wyoming.”

Russ Bacon, supervisor of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, said extended forecasts for the area indicated it could be quite some time before the fire is contained.

“We need to be aware that we are going to be with this fire for a while,” he said. “With the fuel situation and the weather the way it is, the team is already thinking long-term and that’s something for us all to be aware of.”

Earlier in the day, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon tweeted that the fire had grown to 80,000 acres and tweeted-out a map and said that the red dots were thermal hot spots detected by satellite.

Cowboy State Daily was told the 69,138 acres figure was the correct amount.

More than 420 firefighters are battling the flames, along with air tankers.

Firefighters are working to protect structures and infrastructure threatened by the fire.

The extensive burning created air quality issues in Cheyenne, where the air quality on Saturday morning was rated “unhealthy” by the World Air Quality Index project.

This story was updated to include information from the Saturday evening briefing.

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Mullen Fire Now 25,000+Acres; Strong Winds Forecast This Weekend

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Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Friday, September 25, 2020

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest reached the Rob Roy community this week, officials announced on Friday.

During a virtual update that was streamed to Facebook, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team members provided various updates regarding the fire that has been raging in the forest for more than a week.

As of Friday afternoon, the fire has affected 25,250 acres, according to fire tracking website InciWeb. More forest area closures were announced to better allow fire resources to assist where needed.

Pre-evacuation notices have also been issued for the Foxborough and Fox Park communities due to concerns with wind direction and anticipated fire spread.

On Friday, crews were focused on structure protection, particularly in the Rambler area, one of the RMIM members said on Friday.

The weather continues to be unseasonably warm, meaning that the fire has continued to rage on, an official from the U.S. Forest Service said during the stream. He also compared the Mullen wildfire to the 2017 Keystone wildfire, but noted that the latter occurred in July.

For the weekend, strong winds are expected to continue, especially on Saturday, with some significant gusts possible. Temperatures will be slightly cooler with increased humidity.

A cold front will cross the fire area on Saturday, with much cooler temperatures expected on Sunday. Gusty winds will shift northwest behind the cold front and will continue into Monday.

Only 2% of the fire has been contained and its estimated completed containment date is Oct. 30.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been refunding hunters and anglers for licenses going unused due to the fire.

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Mullen Fire Continues Growing, Nears 20K Acres

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https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1203240833391194&extid=Dl5UB6FHQjx0cjCp

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest continued to burn and grow Thursday, expanding to affect 19,526 acres by Friday morning.

Friday was expected to be an active fire day, according to updates on the fire tracking website “InciWeb.” Weather conditions were expected to be similar to Thursday’s, with warm temperatures and strong, gusty winds that could promote the fire. A “red flag” warning for fire danger was in effect for the forest again Friday.

Firefighters expected to see “significant” growth on Friday, especially on the east and northeast edges of the fire, and strong winds were predicted to hamper air operations. Structure protection crews were working to defend homes and structures in evacuated areas.

Fire and Albany and Carbon county officials were coordinating efforts to ensure the public was aware of rapidly changing fire conditions.

On Thursday there was significant activity on all sides of the fire, which was pushed by strong southwest winds with gusts to 30 mph that continued well into the night.

Winds were very strong on the fire’s north, southeast and east flanks, so firefighters were unable to slow fire’s advance.

On the east side, the fire ran to the southern edge of Rob Roy Reservoir. The southern tip of the fire moved to the east, crossing the 512 Road and approaching the Keystone communities.

As fire activity intensified, many firefighters moved to successfully defend structures in the Rambler community and the Keystone area. 

Friday is the first of several days of strong gusty winds associated with a strong cold front passing through the area this weekend.

Forecasts called for west-southwest winds to continue, with gusts up to 40 mph. As a result, firefighters expected the fire’s spread to continue.

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

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

The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of Friday. Only 2% has been contained and the estimated containment date is Oct. 30.

The total number of personnel working the fire has again grown, this time to 367.

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Mullen Fire Grows To Almost 18K Acres By Thursday

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Thursday’s operations briefing.

Posted by Mullen Fire Information on Thursday, September 24, 2020

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest has continued to grow, affecting nearly 18,000 acres as of Thursday morning.

As of Thursday, only 2% of the 17,763-acre fire had been contained, according to U.S. Forest Service reports on the agency’s wildfire tracking website “Inciweb.” The estimated date for full containment is Oct. 30.

A red flag warning was in effect from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday across the fire area as warm temperatures, strong southwest winds gusting up to 35 mph and minimum humidity was predicted to promote the growth of the fire.

Gusty winds were expected to continue all through the weekend. Critical fire weather is predicted on Friday, with continued warm and dry conditions.

Increased cloud coverage and moisture over the weekend will increase afternoon humidities over the weekend with slightly cooler temperatures in the fire area, the Forest Service said.

The current planned actions are to assess risks to to structures and to prepare for their protection. Specific areas to be targeted include structures at the Rambler subdivision, A Bar A Ranch, Keystone and additional values at risk in the fire area.

Gov. Mark Gordon made a statement on his Facebook page Thursday morning, reiterating information about the fire.

“A shift in wind direction is expected to push the fire to the northeast [Thursday],” he said. “Conditions are expected to be very challenging for fire crews today and tomorrow.”

The fire became more active on Wednesday due to increased winds, warmer temperatures and lower humidity. Fire growth was mainly in the Platte River Wilderness on the southeast side of the fire.

The movement into the wilderness was expected, so helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are working in the area to slow the fire’s progression.

The crew working the fire has grown to 290 personnel.

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Mullen Fire Grows To Almost 15K Acres

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire grew to nearly 15,000 acres by Wednesday morning despite the efforts of helicopters dropping thousands of gallons of water on the flames in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

According to fire tracking website Inciweb, helicopters delivered more than 22,000 gallons of water on Tuesday, which supported the work of the firefighters on the ground by cooling the fire’s edge and slowing its spread rate.

Fixed wing aircraft, including CL-415 scoopers and smaller scooping aircraft, were also used on the east side of the fire in the Rambler area. 

The fire has currently affected 14,653 acres and only 2% has been contained. The estimated containment date is Oct. 30.

Lake Hattie is closed to watercraft effective immediately to allow for specialized aircraft to collect water from the lake to help with suppression efforts, according to an announcement from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Fire managers have assigned personnel and other resources to focus on assets at risk, such as evacuated communities of Rambler, Keystone, Lake Creek, the Rob Roy Reservoir area and the city of Cheyenne water supply.

Structure protection groups are in each community, clearing brush and installing sprinkler systems to prepare structures for possible fire progression. Engines and hand crews are working on the western edge to secure the fire perimeter to prevent spread to the west onto private property.

In other areas, fire managers are scouting the terrain for opportunities where firefighters can successfully slow fire progression.  

Dry dead and down fuels, low humidity and gusty winds have contributed to active fire behavior, even throughout Tuesday night. Later this week, fire weather is expected to become critical with strong west/southwest winds, very low humidity and above normal temperatures.

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

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

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

Nearly 200 people were working the fire as of Wednesday.

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

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

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

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

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

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

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos told Cowboy State Daily that while the closures are frustrating for the public, they have occurred in the interest of safety.

“We don’t take this closure lightly,” he said. “We only do it because we feel the fire has the potential to impact certain areas. We realize people are looking for immediate information on the fire, and we’re trying to provide it as quickly as possible, but want to make sure everything we release is accurate and not immediately out-of-date.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mullen Fire Still At 13K Acres, Highway Reopened

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest stayed inside its perimeter overnight Monday and remained at 13,504 acres as of Tuesday morning, according to firefighting officials.

A Type II management team took over command of the fire Tuesday morning to coordinate efforts of firefighters in Albany and Carbon counties and established a Facebook page where fire updates are being posted.

Although Wyoming Highway 130 between Centennial and Saratoga was reopened Tuesday, the fire’s containment was still estimated at only 2%.

An evacuation order for the Keystone area, including Keystone proper, lower Keystone, Langford/Ricker/ Moore’s Gulch and the 507C cabin group remained in order, as did a pre-evacuation order for the Centennial Valley, including the communities of Albany and Centennial.

The Type II management team that took over command on Tuesday will assess the damage done and call for appropriate resources to battle the fire, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos.

The teams usually consist of around 30 members, but can quickly grow to 50 or 100 people with additional resources, Voos said.

He added the group won’t be as large this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but its members will still likely be in the area for about two weeks.

“Basically, they come in to assess the damage and what’s going on and then bring in the appropriate resources to combat the fire,” he said.

A virtual community meeting is planned for sometime Tuesday evening, but no information about what time or where the public could access the meeting had been released as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The cause of the fire is still unknown as of Tuesday, but is under investigation.

“We’re looking for tips on what might have happened, especially firsthand knowledge,” Voos said. “We know the general area of where the fire started, but due to its complexity, we haven’t been able to get an investigator in there yet.”

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Mullen Fire Likely To Grow Due To Strong Winds

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest is likely to grow in size this week due to strong, gusty winds and dry weather, according to forest officials.

The U.S. Forest Service announced this on Monday, as well as noting there is a red flag warning in place for the region, which is a concern. The winds could push the fire in multiple directions, but will likely end up moving east and northeast, the Forest Service said.

The fire had affected 13,835 acres as of Monday morning. In addition to the Savage Run Wilderness, the fire is established in the Platte River Wilderness.

Available fuels and the region’s topography could let the fire make a run up Mullen Creek headwaters into Douglas Creek and Middle Fork Little Laramie, the agency said.

Forest Service spokesman Aaron Voos told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that a “Type II” management assessment team will arrive Tuesday to assume management of the fire.

“Basically, they come in to assess the damage and what’s going on and then bring in the appropriate resources to combat the fire,” he explained.

The assessment teams usually consist of around 30 members, but can quickly grow to 50 or 100 people with additional resources. Voos said the group won’t be as large this year due to coronavirus restrictions, but its members will still likely be in the area for about two weeks.

On Sunday, ground and aerial operations were successful in containing 2% of the fire on the west side. A 100-person crew is working the fire, while helicopters, air tankers and single-engine air tankers are working the fire’s edges.

The fire has grown significantly since it was first reported on Thursday. The cause was still unknown as of Monday morning and Voos couldn’t report specifics of the investigation.

“We’re looking for tips on what might have happened, especially firsthand knowledge,” he said. “We know the general area of where the fire started, but due to its complexity, we haven’t been able to get an investigator in there yet.”

All members of the public, including campers and hunters, were advised to leave the area due to the possibility for extreme fire behavior.

Fire growth wasn’t as intense as expected over the weekend, with mainly interior burning and some expansion around the middle of the burn. The fire slowed after spreading outside of the wilderness.

On Sunday, the Albany County Emergency Management Agency requested evacuation of the Keystone area, which included Keystone proper, lower Keystone, Langford/Ricker, Moore’s Gulch and the 507C cabin grouping.

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

The Rambler and Rob Roy areas have also been evacuated.

The fire originated in the Savage Run Wilderness area of the forest in Carbon County.

Portions of the forest have been closed due to the fire and Voos noted that while the closures are frustrating for the public, they have occurred in the interest of safety.

“We don’t take this closure lightly,” he said. “We only do it because we feel the fire has the potential to impact certain areas. We realize people are looking for immediate information on the fire, and we’re trying to provide it as quickly as possible, but want to make sure everything we release is accurate and not immediately out-of-date.”

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