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Alpine Lake fire tops 6,450 acres

Aug 28, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Alpine Lake Fire burning in mountains above Fort Washakie continues to grow, and officials aren't counting on moisture normally seen this time of year to suppress the blaze.

"Historically, moisture events during the end of August will moderate the fire season with a more season-ending moisture event occurring in early to mid September," Wind River Agency public information officer Karl Brauneis said in a news release. "Unfortunately, no significant moisture is on the horizon for this year."

Brauneis said forecasters are comparing this year's fire weather to 1994 when season-ending moisture didn't occur until October.

The Alpine Lake wildfire has now burned roughly 6,450 acres since backcountry users first reported it on Aug. 7. About 307 acres of that is in the Shoshone National Forest in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness.

Brauneis said the fire's intensity has varied, with an estimated 25 percent as a stand replacement fire with some under burning. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this type of fire burns vegetation above ground.

Due to rugged terrain and safety concerns, there are no firefighters in a suppression mode on the ground. Crews are on Windy Ridge adjacent to the fire collecting field data for assistance in the long-term planning and management of the incident.

There are management action points being utilized by air resources for helicopter water bucket drops designed to limit fire spread in certain areas. An operations section chief and a safety officer are assisting in planning for potential suppression action at specific points as well.

Brauneis said the fire management team briefed tribal council members Monday afternoon about how the incident is being managed.

"The council supports the plan, our management and direction," he said.

Windy Ridge trails into Deadman and Alpine lakes remain closed. The public is also advised to use caution when crossing over Paradise Ridge into Paradise Basin, Lydle and Steamboat lakes due to the increase in fire activity.

The wildfire is roughly 15 miles up drainage of Bull Lake Reservoir.

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