Alpine Lake Fire doubles; not fought on ground

Aug 15, 2012 By Christina George, Staff Writer

The wildfire that has been burning on the Wind River Indian Reservation for more than a week has grown, and officials estimated its size to be 1,342 acres as of Wednesday morning.

The Alpine Lake Fire, which was reported to authorities Aug. 7, had burned 218 acres as of Monday, and another 670 acres Tuesday. The blaze has also expanded into forestry lands.

"The Alpine Lake Fire made several significant runs during the late afternoon and evening hours of Monday, Aug. 13," Wind River Agency public information officer Karl Brauneis said in a news release.

"The fire has also crossed over on to the Fitzpatrick Wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest.

Brauneis said the smoke that has been hovering over much of the county is not coming from the Alpine Lake fire but rather from Idaho.

"(Smoke from) our fire is going toward Crowheart," he said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

The cause of the Alpine Lake Fire remains under investigation.

The blaze is located about 15 miles up drainage of the Bull Lake Reservoir and burning at an elevation of 9,000 to 10,000 feet in lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, spruce and fir, with rock and needle cast.

Although there is a buffer of rugged rock, water and lakes that will assist in limiting the fire's growth potential, there are no firefighters on the ground due to safety concerns.

Brauneis said tribal officials on Tuesday closed the trail accessing Windy Ridge, and Deadman and Alpine lakes. An outfitter camp at Alpine Lake canceled any use in the lake area until further notice.

According to information from the Shoshone National Forest, a Fort Washakie helitack crew evacuated the outfitter camp Tuesday. All clients are safe and have linked up with their outfitter at the Saint Lawrence Basin Trailhead, the agency reported.

"In addition, the Mark Tree trail from the Fitzpatrick Wilderness on the Shoshone National Forest is also closed at the reservation boundary," Brauneis said.

"This closure prevents National Forest users from entering the reservation into the fire area from the Fitzpatrick Wilderness."

The fire will continue to be monitored by air resources. A long-term course of action plan is in the development stage for the fire planning area.

There were three field observers who were monitoring the fire in previous days. However, due to a cold front that moved into the area, Brauneis said the agency withdrew those resources until more favorable weather conditions exist.

"The number-one priority in managing the Alpine Lake Fire is for firefighter and public safety," he said.

Officials estimate the fire growth potential at 3,000 acres during the next two-week planning period. The fire is expected to reach full containment by Nov. 15.

Brauneis also said fire restrictions passed on June 29 remain in effect on the reservation.

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