Wildfire erupts in southern Carbon County

Photo courtesy Tim Downham, USFS This photo taken Sunday shows shows the variety of fuels in the area of the Snake Fire. The fire was reported Saturday at a size of 30 acres and “blew up” Sunday to 2,350 acres.

Photo courtesy Tim Downham, USFS
This photo taken Sunday shows shows the variety of fuels in the area of the Snake Fire. The fire was reported Saturday at a size of 30 acres and “blew up” Sunday to 2,350 acres.

By Chad Abshire

editor@rawlinstimes.com

RAWLINS — Officials say that what started out Saturday as a 30-acre fire in southern Carbon County “blew up” on Sunday to 2,350 acres as a result of weather.

Aaron Voos, Public Affairs Specialist with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grasslands, called that a “huge increase” for the Snake Fire which was discovered Saturday.

“Sunday’s weather is what we would call extreme fire behavior,” he said. “High temperatures combined with low humidity combined with 20 mph sustained winds and 40 mph gusts drove the fire east and northeast rapidly.”

The fire’s cause is unknown and the public is encouraged to contact USFS Officer Hanna Nadeau at 307-343-2335 with any information. Specifically, investigators are looking at the area just east of Forest Road 851.1F.

The fire, located about two miles north of the Colorado state line and five miles southeast of Battle Creek Dispersed Campground, began at 30 acres in the Roaring Fork of the Little Snake River drainage and grew to 200 acres by Sunday afternoon.

The fire is burning in mixed conifer and aspen, with some dead component, but not as heavy beetle-killed timber as neighboring fires to the east in the same range — the Broadway and Beaver Creek Fires, which are also burning in southern Carbon County.

Voos said a smaller crew headed out to the Snake Fire initially, but responders quickly changed with the fire’s growth. As of Monday afternoon, three hand crews, 10 engines and around five helicopters are battling the fire. In all, about 100 staff are in the area, including responders from Carbon County.

Of the local response, Voos said Carbon County firefighters had been “instrumental” so far and “would continue to be.”

A call to Carbon County Fire Warden and acting Rawlins Fire Chief John Rutherford was not returned by press time Monday.

Fortunately, the near future looks good for the fire, Voos said, with “cool, misty and not quite as dry and hot” weather on the way. However, extended forecasts show the area getting hot and dry again, he said.

“That’s of some concern so we’ll keep a close eye on that,” he said.

Much of the fire is on national forest land, Voos said, but some private property is in the area and structures are located near the perimeter.

“Crews are working on protecting those structures and will be taking action if the fire decides to head that way,” Voos said.

Fire impedes recreation

Wyoming Game and Fish Department stated in a release that the fire would affect hunters and other recreationists seeking to enjoy the wilds of Carbon County.

Baggs Wildlife Biologist Tony Mong said in the release that the affected area is in the south central portion of the Sierra Madre Range, “within a very popular area for hunters, including Baggs elk hunt area 21 and Baggs mule deer hunt area 82.”

“We know this wildfire will affect many of our deer and elk hunters,” Mong said. “Quite a few people hunt in this area and we want to give these hunters a heads-up, so that they have time to find other areas to scout and hunt for their game. If you are planning on hunting is these areas, specifically east of Forest Road 851.1, you will need to make other plans.

“We recommend hunters monitor the progress of the fire via the Forest Service fire incident website area prior to an official closure.”

Information on the fire can be found at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5023/.

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