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Firefighters looking to gain upper hand
A firefighting helicopter picked up a load of water from a river on the way back to the High Park fire in northern Colorado. Incident Information System photo

Firefighters looking to gain upper hand in western states

Jun 21, 2012 - The Associated Press

BELLVUE, Colo. -- More people evacuated by a northern Colorado wildfire are set to return home Thursday, the second wave of evacuees allowed back in as many days as firefighters ramp up their attack on the blaze that has burned over 100 square miles.

Other evacuees were allowed to return Wednesday, but some kept their bags packed because they were warned to stay ready to leave again.

Firefighters are trying to increase containment lines around the fire and put out hotspots within the burn area before a return to more hot weather Friday.

"Mother Nature has allowed us this window, and we have responded very aggressively," said Brett Haberstick, a spokesman for fire managers.

The fire burning on more than 68,000 acres destroyed at least 189 homes, making it the most destructive in Colorado history. The estimated $19.6 million in damages caused by the fire also marks a state high. It is 55 percent contained.

In Wyoming, firefighters have gained 5 percent containment on a fire burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest in east-central Wyoming.

The Russell's Camp fire is located about 30 miles south of Glenrock and has burned just over 4 square miles since Sunday.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity on Wednesday lessened fire spread and intensity, allowing firefighters to make progress on all areas of the fire. However, very hot, dry weather is to return by the weekend.

The number of firefighters on the scene has increased to 385. They are aided by five helicopters.

Elsewhere in the state, all of Teton County in northwest Wyoming has been elevated to a high fire danger rating because of dry, warm weather. That includes Grand Teton National Park and the vast Bridger-Teton National Forest.

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