Badger Creek Fire doubles in size again as aerial support was grounded and firefighters pulled back
WYOMING – About 300 concerned citizens—many of whom have been evacuated or are facing evacuation due to the Badger Creek Fire—were in attendance at a public meeting last night at the Albany County Fairgrounds.
Things have gone from bad to worse on the fire first discovered last Sunday. The state’s first wildfire of the season doubled again in size (now 11,021 acres) from yesterday’s assessment—the fourth straight day it has done so. Today, the area is under a Red Flag Warning in effect from 11am-8pm. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can be expected to contribute to extreme fire behavior today.
Most of the fire’s growth yesterday was on the east side as it was driven by winds into dense vegetation. Intense fire behavior and thick smoke made it unsafe for firefighters and aviation resources to take suppression action on the east side of the fire throughout much of the day.
Firefighters focused on protecting structures and other values at risk, as well as building line around the fire where it was safe to do so. While there is still no containment of the fire, crews have been successful in building line around portions of the west, south and north sides of the fire.
Firefighting priorities for Thursday continue to focus on strategies where the firefighters can be successful protecting structures and other values at risk; where they can safely do so. The fire is currently 11,021 acres with no containment.
Today, crews will continue to build fireline on the north side of the fire; at times using fire to bring the fire’s edge to control features. To the south, firefighters will construct both hand and dozer line to limit fire spread.
On the east side of the fire, crews plan to assess and mitigate risk to structures along the Hwy 10 corridor. Aviation resources will continue to assist firefighters by slowing the fire’s spread and extinguish hot spots.
A slight shift in the weather pattern is expected to result in stronger west-southwest winds in the fire area. Gusts are expected to be in excess of 30 mph on Thursday afternoon. Conditions will remain hot, dry and windy, however a slight increase in moisture in the afternoon should result in increased cloud cover.
Albany County Officials have issued evacuation orders for the communities of Foxpark, Mountain Home, Wold Tract, Wyocolo, Gramm, Beehive, Miller Lake, and the areas along Highway 10 from Woods Landing south to the Colorado state line. This includes Woods Landing, New Jelm, and Jelm. Pre-evacuation orders are in place for the community of Foxborough.
Several road closures remain in place due to the ongoing Badger Creek Fire. WYO 230 remains closed between Woods Landing and the Colorado state line. WYO 10 is also now closed from Woods Landing to the Colorado state line. In Colorado, Colorado Highway 127 is closed from the Colorado 125 junction to the Wyoming state line (except for local traffic).
Beginning today, several specialized aircraft will be used to support the Badger Creek Fire suppression efforts. The aircraft, commonly called Super Scoopers, are fixed wing aircraft that fly at high rates of speed (approximately 100 mph) just above the surface of a lake or reservoir. These aircraft can scoop up large amounts of water into a tank in the ‘belly’ of the plane. The aircraft can collect as much as 1,600 gallons of water in about ten seconds. These planes are valuable in expediting the time it takes to load water and strategically make water drops on fires in nearby locations.
Due to the proximity to the eastern edge of the fire, the Super Scoopers will be using Lake Hattie to fill their tanks. Because of this emergency suppression activity, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office are prohibiting boats from using Lake Hattie. Fire managers and cooperating agencies understand the impact this has on recreational opportunities at the lake; however, it is a necessary precaution for the safety of boaters and firefighting pilots.
The wildfire season is off to a similar start experienced in 2017. To date, a total of 26,006 fires (1,998,630 burned) have been recorded in 2018, compared to 26,006 (2,462,585) last year.
An estimated $1.4 million has been committed to the Badger Creek Fire so far.