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Cool spell slows Alpine Lake Fire temporarily

Aug 16, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Wind River Agency spokesman Karl Brauneis said a cold front and some moisture Wednesday helped suppress the Alpine Lake Fire that has scorched 1,342 acres of reservation wilderness since it was discovered nine days ago.

Brauneis said he and other fire monitors opted not to fly over the wildfire Thursday morning to assess growth because of low clouds and reduced visibility.

"There would have been some fire growth yesterday but due to the cool, wet and moist weather we expect no significant fire behavior today," Brauneis said Thursday morning. "We will fly tomorrow and will know more."

There are no firefighters on the ground fighting the blaze due to rugged terrain and safety concerns. The fire is burning lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, spruce and fir in an area about 15 miles up drainage of the Bull Lake Reservoir at 9,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation.

National Weather Service meteorologist Trevor Lavoie said that although there was no precipitation in central Wyoming Wednesday night, humidity continues to rise with dew points Wednesday evening ranging from 70 to 98 percent that has helped limit fire growth.

"The dew point is the measure of how much moisture is in the air, so the lower it is, the drier it is," Lavoie said. "It certainly helped with the recovery actions overnight and will certainly play into the efforts this afternoon as they try to continue to get a handle on it."

He said the fuel in the fire's area is "pretty critical," as the season has been dry.

"This is temporary relief they are certainly going to need. ... But we've got a ridge of high pressure starting to rebuild today, and it will amplify in the northern Rockies through this weekend," he added.

Lavoie said temperatures will stay relatively cool, but it will remain dry for the next four days.

"There is a chance of isolated storms Sunday and on into Monday, but they will be scattered and more in the western portions of the state rather than the central basin," he said.

Brauneis said a group of five has been monitoring the fire since backcountry users found it on Aug. 7. However, additional crews will be taken to Saint Lawrence Basin Thursday and flown into the area Friday morning to conduct more monitoring.

He said the additional resources are specifically trained for backcountry monitoring.

He said the Wildland Fire Module and Unaweep crew arrived Thursday morning and will also work with local resources and the Bighorn National Forest to assist in training others for similar fires in the future.

In all, 20 individuals will be working on the fire in some capacity.

Brauneis said the five California fishermen evacuated from Alpine Lake earlier this week were transported by helicopter to an outfitter's camp at Saint Lawrence Basin Trailhead. He said the fire was threatening Windy Ridge trail, which is the only route to access the mountain lake as well as Deadman Lake.

Given the area's isolation and that an outfitter governs usage, Brauneis said officials do not believe anyone else is in harm's way.

"Right now, there shouldn't be anyone else in there," he said.

He said the only other way outdoors users could possibly access the lake is on the Mark Tree trail from the Fitzpatrick Wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest, but the trail was closed on Tuesday after the fire moved into the forest, burning approximately 13 acres.

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