Wyoming Wildfire Moving into Thinner Fuels

August 6, 2008

A wildfire burning near Yellowstone National Park in northern Wyoming was reaching areas with fewer trees Tuesday, but shifting winds may yet pose problems for firefighters.

The Gunbarrel Fire was burning about 40 miles west of Cody. It has burned just over 31,000 acres, or 48 square miles, in the Shoshone National Forest east of Yellowstone. Firefighters had been successful in keeping the fire to the north side of U.S. 14-16-20 that runs between Cody and Yellowstone’s east entrance.

“It is in fact reaching some places where it’s running into rocks and rocky areas on kind of the northeast corner up there,” fire spokesman Steve Till said Tuesday.

“With the fewer fuels and stuff, it would be much easier to engage it up there as opposed to the heavy, thick timber where you can’t really put firefighters into,” Till said.

Shifting winds were expected Tuesday afternoon although the winds were expected to keep the fire away from the highway and lodges and cabins along the route, he said.

Firefighters have conducted burnouts along the highway to steal potential fuels if the fire moves in, Till said.

“There’s a lot of black along the highway, which doesn’t look so hot, but it’s a good thing in terms of fire control,” he said.

The fire burned an uninhabited U.S. Forest Service lodge called the Sweetwater Lodge on Sunday night, but otherwise no lodges or cabins have been lost since the fire started on July 26 from lightning. The lodge had been out of operation for many years, according to the Forest Service.

The management team says the Gunbarrel Fire has cost $1.3 million to fight so far.

In western Wyoming, the Bridger-Teton National Forest issued a temporary area closure Tuesday around the New Fork Lakes fire, which is burning in a remote area about 20 miles north of Pinedale.

The fire has burned about 11,585 acres, or about 18 square miles.

Another fire is burning in a remote area of Yellowstone northeast of Fishing Bridge — near the northern bank of Yellowstone Lake in the central section of the park. No park infrastructure was threatened.

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