Firefighers Demobilize from Yellowstone Fire

August 20, 2007

Cars, campers and RVs were traveling in and out of Yellowstone National Park through the park’s east gate again Sunday after road crews worked overnight to clear a mud slide outside the park.

Meantime, firefighters who had been battling a wildfire that closed the park’s east gate last week and threatened various resorts near the park were being reassigned to other fires in the West after more than an inch of rain all but doused the Columbine fire over the weekend.

“It’s got it parked, and we don’t anticipate it will dry out to get active again for at least a week,” fire incident commander Mark Grant said Sunday in a telephone interview.

Grant said while firefighters and equipment were being pulled out, sprinklers and other measures taken to protect area resorts and other buildings would remain behind until the fire was declared out.

There was still some smoldering within the fire, which began Aug. 9 with a lightning strike and burned 18,225 acres, or about 28 square miles. Firefighters were never able to gain any containment until timely rainstorms hit the fire Friday and Saturday.

The fire forced Yellowstone to close its east gate twice last week, causing a 29-mile detour for park visitors.

The rain allowed the entrance to open on Friday but then caused a third closure at 2 p.m. Saturday when a mud slide occurred outside the fire area about 7 miles east of the gate on U.S. 14-16-20.

State road crews worked through the night, and the highway was reopened by sunrise.

So far this busy summer tourist season, Yellowstone’s east gate has been closed four times. The entrance was temporarily closed in late July by another mud slide inside the park near Sylvan Pass.

Through July, more than 208,000 visitors passed through the park’s east entrance this year.

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