Firefighters gain upper hand on Roosevelt

By Robert Galbreath

Sublette Examiner

Via Wyoming News Exchange


PINEDALE – Containment on the Roosevelt Fire reached 60 percent on Monday as firefighters secured the lines along the northern and eastern edges of the blaze. 

Monday’s figure is significantly higher than the 45 percent containment reported on Sunday. While the fire has now destroyed over 61,000 acres, the flames only consumed around 650 acres in the last 24 hours, a significant decrease in fire activity.

“Things are looking really good today,” Incident Command Public Information Officer Don Jaques told the Examiner on Monday, “Firefighters have successfully contained most of the northern boundary from Upper Hoback all the way to Rim Station. We also have containment along the eastern line near Rolling Thunder and Jim Bridger Estates.”

“With more moisture predicted this week and the continued hard work of firefighters on the lines, we expect the containment to increase through the week,” PIO Karen Kanes added.

The decreased fire activity allowed the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department, in cooperation with the Incident Management team, to make big reductions to the areas under evacuation, Kanes said. Rolling Thunder and Jim Bridger Estates were downgraded from “go” status to “set” status. The Sheriff’s Department uses the “Ready, Set, Go” model to inform people in affected neighborhoods when they need to leave their homes. “Go” signals immediate evacuation, while “set” only designates residents be packed and ready for an evacuation.

Hoback Ranches was split into several sections this morning, Kanes said. The western section, zone 6.1, was downgraded from “go” to “set.” The Sheriff’s Department organized a limited re-entry of about 80 Hoback Ranches residents this morning, Sgt. Travis Bingham told the Examiner. Utility crews are working in the community, and power was restored to a “good majority” of Hoback Ranches by Monday morning, Bingham said. The eastern portion of Hoback Ranches, in particular Watson and Annie Draw, are still too dangerous for reentry, Jaques said.

Over the weekend, most areas north of highway 191 were downgraded to “ready” from “set,” Jaques told the Examiner on Sunday. Areas along Upper Hoback Road were also downgraded to “set” and residents are allowed to return to the areas, Jaques added. However, he stressed that due to Forest Service closures, Upper Hoback Road was technically only open to residents, not the general public.

Popular hunting areas north of Highway 191 were re-opened to the public on Sunday, Kasey Stewert, public information officer confirmed. Hunters can now return to areas like the north fork of Fisherman Creek and the west side of Cliff Creek Road.

Jaques stressed to the Examiner that despite the moisture on Sunday, all areas in the Bridger-Teton National Forest are still under Stage I fire restrictions. Hunters and recreationalists using the forest are only allowed to have fires in designated areas.

“Until significant moisture comes in, we still have really dry conditions in the area,” Jaques said, “The vegetation under the forest canopy is not absorbing moisture, and humidity levels in the air are low.”

Firefighters worked around the clock on burnout operations along the north boundary of the fire last week and over the weekend, and Jaques credits these efforts with the increased containment.

“While a few hotspots still exist along the northern portion of the fire, the burnout operation was very successful,” Jaques said.

A burnout operation is when firefighters create a fire line by burning the vegetation to stop the progress of a wildfire.

Firefighters are currently focusing most of their efforts on eliminating hotspots, cutting down hazardous trees and working on “suppression damage,” Kanes said on Monday. These operations include repairing fences firefighters had to break down to fight the fire and cleaning up dozer lines dug to suppress the fire, Kanes added.

The Incident Management Team is also in the process of launching a Burn Area Emergency Response Team to examine how to “rehabilitate” watershed areas damaged by the fire, Jaques said. As snowy, wet weather moves in for the winter, burned off waterways create potential risk for landslides and further infrastructure damage.

The number of confirmed injuries attributed to the fire stands at three, including two hunters who were burned on Saturday, Sept. 15. The third injury was a medical incident where a member of the incident command team suffered chest pains. No serious injuries related to firefighting have been reported yet, PIO Kanes told the Examiner.

“The safety officer and the whole incident command team are really proud of how safe we’ve been considering the complexity and size of the fire,” Kanes said.

Bingham confirmed Monday afternoon that a total of 55 homes have been destroyed by the fire. All of the losses so far are in the Hoback Ranches community, Bingham said, and the sheriff’s department is now finished assessing every home in the neighborhood.

Fire investigators for the U.S. Forest Service determined that the Roosevelt Fire was human caused this weekend, Kasey Stewert, public information officer confirmed to the Examiner on Sunday. The investigation narrowed down the origin of the fire to a “warming fire” that was left unattended. Stewert stressed that a warming fire was a small fire without a fire ring made by outdoor users to warm themselves on a steep ridge, and is not a proper campfire at a campsite.

The Marten Creek Fire is now 93 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service announced in a press release on Monday, Oct. 1. The national forest closure area around the fire was significantly reduced, and Greys River Road is now open to the public. However, immediate areas around the fire, including several forest roads are still closed. A much smaller Type 4 team of 53 personnel now administers the fire.


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