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Alpine Lake Fire tops 23,000 acres
Officials have focused on ridge tops and other openings as they work to contain the Alpine Lake Fire northwest of Fort Washakie, now measured at more than 23,000 acres. Photo by Lance Robinson, U.S Forest Service / Wind River Agency

Alpine Lake Fire tops 23,000 acres in smoky day for Riverton Valley

Sep 16, 2012 - From staff reports

Firefighters conducted an intentional 'burn-out' to strengthen the containment line.

Officials on Saturday measured the Alpine Lake Fire northwest of Fort Washakie at 23,463 acres, with most of the flames burning in the Sage Creek Basin area on Friday.

The fire still is contained within the official fire planning area according to public information officer Karl Brauneis, who said a burn-out operation was implemented Friday afternoon.

According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, a burn-out occurs when attack on a wildland fire is direct, or parallel, with the control line. Firefighters intentionally set fire to unburned islands of fuel inside of the control line to strengthen the line.

Brauneis said Friday's burn-out was meant to help slow down the fire or remove some heat from the flames as they hit specific management action points (MAPs).

He said areas of focus, like ridge tops and other openings, were "burned off" Friday by hand crews and by helicopter before any fire could reach the designated MAPs.

"The helicopter is outfitted with a Plastic Sphere Dispenser machine that basically fires pingpong balls filled with ethelyne glycol," Brauneis said.

On Saturday, officials expected that west winds at high speeds should carry smoke north of Lander and "hopefully" north of Riverton into more sparsely populated areas.

They expected smoke heights to reach 10,000-12,500 feet above ground level after noon on Saturday, with dispersal of smoke forecast as "excellent" at that time.

The wind forecast didn't pan out, as smoke and ash filled much of the Riverton Valley all day.

The ash fall was heavy enough to accumulate on automobiles and sidewalks Saturday afternoon.

"The fire is doing some very good 'ecological stuff' back there," Brauneis wrote in a Friday update.

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