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Wildfire growing quickly northwest of Dubois

Sep 29, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Concerned by a forecast of hot, windy conditions, firefighters have arrived to battle the Crooked Creek Fire burning northwest of Dubois. The wildfire grew to 350 acres in less than a day since it was first reported at a half acre on Monday afternoon.

"Yesterday in the late afternoon we had strong winds, warm temperatures and the fuels out there -- a large number of the trees are dead due to the pine beetle epidemic," U.S. Forest Service fire information officer Carl Jungck said.

Joseph Schwartz reported the fire to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office at 1:37 p.m. Monday, the sheriff's office reported. It was a half acre at the time but grew swiftly over the next two hours to 300 acres before reaching 350 by Tuesday.

The U.S. Forest Service reported the fire was 10 percent contained Tuesday morning. Burning in heavy timber 15 miles northwest of Dubois on private and federal land, it has not caused any injuries but is threatening structures.

It has prompted the closure of Forest Service Roads 732, 542, starting about 1 mile east of its junction with Forest Service Road 532, 542 and motorized trail 11. Union Pass Road is open to local traffic only. Dispersed camp sites in the Sheridan Oval area still are open.

The fire was threatening homes in the Union Pass Subdivision, the Teton Valley Ranch Camp and ranches in the area, but firefighters were positioned Tuesday with water trucks to protect structures, Jungck said.

About 100 personnel were working on the fire Tuesday morning, including firefighters from the Fremont County Fire Protection District, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

Two crews of hotshot wild-land firefighters, six smokejumpers, two large air tankers, two smaller airplanes, a helicopter and a bulldozer began attacking the fire Monday evening.

The aircraft dumped four loads of fire-retardant slurry and four loads of water on the fire on Monday and continued Tuesday. Smokejumpers cleared fuels on the western edge of the fire to build a firebreak Monday evening.

The hotshots planned to construct firebreaks on the south side of the fire Tuesday, and the bulldozer was expected to do the same on the north side. Engine crews planned to attack spot fires and protect buildings.

Aircraft are also circling the fire to relay information on its behavior to crews on the ground, Jungck said. A Type 2 incident command team from Oregon was expected to arrive later Tuesday to assume command of the firefighting operations

"The fire is a little more complex than our district can handle," Jungck said.

A public meeting on the fire is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Headwaters Arts and Conference Center.

For the most part, the wildfire season in Wyoming has been light in 2015. County and state

firefighters were sent to other states where wildfires overwhelmed local resources.

"Most of our lightning storms had moisture with them. Years that have a really bad fire season it starts early and runs all summer. Where this year we really didn't dry out until August across most of the state," Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser said.

Wyoming saw 31 fire starts this year that required use of state helicopters for quick response, an increase from 27 in 2014, he said.

"But they were able to keep them small," Crapser said. "Nothing really had big legs underneath it and got going."

The number of acres burned this summer in Wyoming is still being tabulated, and more wildfires could start this fall. But for the most part, the wildfire season is pretty much over with the change to cooler, less stormy fall weather.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Correction: This story should have said Joseph Schwartz reported the fire to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office at 1:37 p.m. on Sept. 28. The correction was made Sept. 30.

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About 100 firefighters are attacking the Crooked Creek Fire burning 350 acres of timber northwest of Dubois. U.S. Forest Service

About 100 firefighters are attacking the Crooked Creek Fire burning 350 acres of timber northwest of Dubois. U.S. Forest Service


About 100 firefighters are attacking the Crooked Creek Fire burning 350 acres of timber northwest of Dubois. U.S. Forest Service

About 100 firefighters are attacking the Crooked Creek Fire burning 350 acres of timber northwest of Dubois. U.S. Forest Service

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