Blaze grew to 400-plus acres before doused by firefighters

Sep 30, 2015 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Nearly 80 local firefighters responded Saturday afternoon to reports of a grass fire near U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Washakie.

No one was injured in the blaze, which grew to cover more than 400 acres of grass and sage on either side of the highway.

"It was very large," Lander Rural Fire Department chief Nick Johnson said Tuesday. "It had already jumped the highway by the time I got there."

He said crews were able to save one structure that was threatened by the flames, which spread due to high winds and fuel moisture conditions.

"Usually when we have a rapid fire growing like that, in that terrain it was in, we normally get to a safe point and we let the fire do its thing until we can get into it to put it out," Johnson explained. "That's all we could do with this one."

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Firefighters assisting in the response were from Fort Washakie, Lander, Morton, Kinnear, Pavillion, Crowheart, Riverton and the Bureau of Land Management. Johnson said one single-engine air tanker also arrived from Casper to help.

Quick turnaround

Johnson's firefighters returned home from the Fort Washakie incident at about 10 p.m. Saturday, when they were called to respond to yet another grass fire, this one in the 500 block of Blue Sky Highway south of Ethete. Johnson said that blaze covered less than an acre, and crews only stayed for about 45 minutes. The cause of the second fire also is under investigation.

Other fires

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office report listed several other grass fires that took place over the weekend: at 11:45 a.m. Friday on Coal Mine Road east of Lander, at 2:45 p.m. Saturday on North Fork Road northwest of Lander, at 8:20 p.m. Saturday on Lakeview Drive north of Kinnear and at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in the 600 block of Ethete Road east of Ethete.

Initial reports indicate the Lakeview Drive fire involved burn barrels.

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