From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 19 - August 7, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Fire containment still elusive

by Derek Farr

The New Fork Lake Fire has evolved into a Type 2 incident, prompting the Forest Service (FS) to temporarily close the area surrounding the fire Tuesday. As of Wednesday, the fire is burning 13,791 acres.

With persistent hot dry weather and afternoon winds fueling the flames, the FS has closed New Fork Lake, Spring Creek and Long Lake trailheads as well as Trapper Creek, Glimpse Lake, Pine Creek, Section Corner, Palmer Canyon, Heart Lake, Double Top, Gulf Creek and Snake Lake trails.

All roads and trails are closed in the closure area. The New Fork Lakes and Willow Lake campgrounds remain open. Most of the southern and eastern shores of New Fork Lakes are closed, as are the north, east, and south shores of Willow Lake and the northern most shore of Fremont Lake.

The fire, 19 miles north of Pinedale, was reported July 29.

The FS has determined the cause to be an abandoned campfire. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is in the process of implementing fire restrictions.

A Type 2 incident team assembled Sunday evening and shadowed the Type 3 team for continuity Monday. Tuesday at 6 a.m. the Type 2 team took over the fire. “A Type 2 team has more buying power and availability to obtain national resources,” said Brandon Hampton, Bureau of Land Management fire information officer. “Your radius of control is much larger and now you have the attention of national fire planners and a national budget.”

Fire crews are continuing line construction on the southwest portion of the fire. Hampton said one Chinook helicopter with a 1,000-gallon bucket and four Bell-type helicopters with 250-gallon buckets are currently battling the blaze.

A crew of 323 personnel is fighting the fire.

As of Wednesday, the fire was 33 percent contained. Tuesday, smoke was visible in Pinedale after a “very successful backburn along the southern edge of the fire perimeter,” according to the Whalen Incident Management Team.

The fire is burning in extremely rugged terrain and moving east into the Willow Creek drainage where it will encounter large pockets of unforested rock outcroppings. Because it is in such rugged, remote and undeveloped land with good containment

lines of the New Fork River on one side and rock outcroppings on the other Hampton said, “There is a chance that the fire could burn for some duration at this point.”

Morning atmospheric inversions are trapping smoke near the ground as far south as Boulder, hindering visibility and creating a health hazard.

Dr. Thomas Johnston, Sublette County Public Health Officer said anyone who experiences increased difficulty breathing should contact their doctor promptly and people who have breathing problems should stay inside until the smoke has abated.

Westerly winds have been clearing out the smoke by noon.

A cold front slipped through the area late Wednesday bringing slightly cooler temperatures and an increased chance for thundershowers.

“Cold fronts equal lighting and strong winds both of which can play adverse affects on wildfires.” Hampton said. “But higher humidities and precipitation are beneficial.”

While the fire is causing hazy skies, it is burning beetle-infected trees in an area that could ultimately see some positive results from the fire.

Hampton said it’s burning in a typical fire mosaic pattern, which means it is not burning hot enough to destroy the soil, and it is leaving unburned sections of forest in its wake.

“This type of fire can leave the forest healthier,” he said.

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