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Quick action gives firefighters upper hand on blaze

Quick action gives firefighters upper hand on Sheep Park blaze in county

Aug 9, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Firefighters continue to make progress on the Sheep Park wildfire that's been burning since Monday near Jeffrey City.

"As of last night, containment was at 90 percent," Sara Beckwith, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management Wind River/Bighorn Basin District, said Thursday morning. "They made a lot of good headway on the fire yesterday, and today they will be releasing some of the resources."

The wildfire is burning nine miles southeast of Jeffrey City between Highway 287/789 and Interstate 80 on BLM land. Beckwith said the blaze has scorched an estimated 528 acres since lightning started it Monday evening. She said sagebrush, grass and timber fueled the fire.

Fire activity has included running, torching and short-range spot fires. Resources from the BLM's Wind River/Bighorn Basin District, Fremont County, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and Wyoming State Forestry are fighting the blaze.

Dispatched resources include engines from the BLM, Forest Service and Fremont County, hand crews, an initial attack squad, three interagency Hotshot crews, three helicopters, single-engine air tankers and air attack. In all, about 150 people are working on the fire.

"They were able to mop up the entire perimeter of the fire so it is not growing," Beckwith said. "But people will probably see smoke from the interior of the fire for a few days."

Smoke from the fire has been visible in Riverton, Lander and the surrounding area for several days.

When the fire started, Beckwith said private cabins, the historic Sparhawk Cabin and various communication site towers were threatened. On Thursday, she said she was unsure if the structures were still in danger.

Known hazards include mine shafts, gas and oil lines and hydrogen sulfide.

With firefighters continuing to gain control of the fire, Beckwith said personnel and equipment are leaving the site.

"Yesterday, the Type 1 helicopter was released, and today some of the engines and crews are being released."

Beckwith said it is hard to say when containment will reach 100 percent, but it will likely be within a few days.

"The BLM appreciates the cooperation received from county and state coordinators and federal agencies involved in helping us make significant progress towards containing the fire," BLM Lander assistant field manager Rube Vigil said in a news release. "In these types of conditions, it was important to attack the fire aggressively to prevent it from spreading into heavy fuels at the top of the mountain."

Outdoor recreationists are urged to use caution or avoid the area entirely since fire behavior can change suddenly and fire spread is unpredictable if high winds develop.

Dubois blaze

Another wildfire was reported Wednesday evening 22 miles west of Dubois in the Long Creek area.

According to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office dispatch log, a call was received at 5:57 p.m. on Wednesday concerning a grass fire off Highway 26 on a Forest Service road.

Shoshone National Forest officials in a news release said the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service responded to the fire. Resources were able to keep the fire to 1/10th of an acre before suppressing it.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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