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Damp weather helping Fairfield crews

Jul 26, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Cooler, damper weather has helped firefighters stop the Fairfield Fire from spreading for two days.

On Thursday morning, the official size was 1,559 acres and the blaze was considered 71 percent contained.

Since the previous day, the fire had only grown four acres, but containment increased 24 percent. Officials do not have an estimate for when the fire will be 100 percent contained, however.

"Mother Nature the last two days really helped us out," Shoshone National Forest fire information officer Carl Jungck said.

Overcast skies and cooler temperatures kept fuels cooler, dampening the fire's growth, he said, and the fire's location on the north rim of Sinks Canyon also saw a drizzle of rain on Wednesday.

Crews

Flames are still consuming heavy timber on the fire's western end, and six wild land fire fighting crews are focusing their efforts on that side. Another team is patrolling the other parts of the burned-out area and "mopping up" the scene.

The total number of personnel on the fire has risen to 364 from Thursday morning's 229. Six fire engines were released by Thursday because most of the work is in terrain too rough for them to access.

Three heavy helicopters are dropping water and retardant to help hand crews work close to the flames and establish strong fire breaks. Other aircraft have moved on to battle blazes elsewhere.

The worst injury so far has been a spider bite on the hand of one fire fighter. He was treated and returned to the line, Jungck said.

Reopen

No structures have been damaged either, officials said. They plan to reopen Sinks Canyon Road on Saturday and aimed to allow residents back into the evacuated Homsetead Park subdivision on Monday.

Those plans are weather-dependent, Jungck said, noting that Friday's forecast was for sunnier skies

A lightning strike on July 17 set off the wild fire, which was first reported on July 22. The blaze first raced eastward from its origin on Fairfield Hill on the north side of Sinks Canyon.

Flames spread through sagebrush and grass towards Homestead Park by Monday afternoon, but a bulldozer arrived in time to clear a swath in front of the houses. An air tanker followed, dropping a line of fire retardant.

Those efforts, combined with firefighters' work on the ground, halted the fire within a hundred feet of the Homestead houses.

Since Tuesday afternoon, winds have pushed flames westward so they no longer threaten structures but are burning into heavy timber fuels.

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