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Casper fire burns seven houses

Casper fire burns seven houses; Jackson-area blaze threatening

Sep 12, 2012 - By Bob Moen and Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The toll from a wildfire south of Casper grew to seven homes destroyed and 750 threatened, while a fire south of Jackson kept hundreds of residents on edge and ready to evacuate in case flames advanced much closer toward the ski town.

Firefighters got help from the weather, though. Cooler temperatures and calmer winds bought time to put more people and equipment into action around the two fires.

"The fire has not made any significant runs this afternoon," Jackson fire spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said Tuesday.

Kathy Lujan, spokeswoman for the Sheep Herder Hill Fire near Casper, said cooler temperatures and lighter winds meant the fire was less active than it had been Monday.

The Sheep Herder Hill Fire about eight miles south of Casper was the bigger of the two blazes by far. Between the time it started Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning, it had burned almost 24 square miles.

Some 400 people remained evacuated from 150 homes on Casper Mountain. Another 750 homes and cabins were threatened.

Several of the evacuees were staying at the Parkway Plaza hotel in Casper. The American Red Cross was preparing to set up shelters at armories in Casper and Douglas, if necessary.

The fire also threatened three commercial properties.

For the first time, firefighters confirmed seven homes lost to the advancing flames. Homes surrounded the fire in all directions, which meant property was at risk no matter which way the fire spread.

"Just everything from a lean-to to a million-dollar home," said David Lundahl, spokesman for Casper Fire-EMS.

Firefighters deployed more than a dozen helicopters and tankers against the fire. Nearly 300 firefighters and support personnel were on the scene.

"And more walking in the door almost as we speak. We're going to have a bunch of resources on the fire," fire spokesman Larry Helmerick said.

Though firefighters got some help from the weather, they now had two fires to worry about in the Casper area. A second fire measuring less than 10 acres had started about a mile north of the main fire. The cause of both fires remained under investigation.

The Horsethief Canyon Fire south of Jackson has burned about 4 square miles since it started on Saturday. The fire is burning on a mountain ridge that overlooks Jackson and is within about 2 miles from the town.

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