LARAMIE — A recent cold front provided a little relief for firefighters, but not much as the Mullen Fire burning in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest about 40 west of Laramie and just southwest of Centennial is still active and growing.
Although it’s growing at a much slower rate than the extreme activity during the two days prior to Sunday’s temperature drop and snow showers, new infrared measurement taken just before midnight Monday confirmed the total acreage burned as of Tuesday morning was 82,649 and remained at 2% containment.
Gov. Mark Gordon reported via Twitter later in the day that containment had been reduced to 0% due to fire growth on the southwest flank.
According to the latest update early Tuesday afternoon on the U.S. Forest Service’s Incident Information website, https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7208/, fire activity increased in several areas, with heavy helicopters making bucket drops on the west flank.
On the east side, the fire moved into areas recently burned by the Badger Creek Fire in summer of 2018.
By Tuesday evening, the acreage burned had grown to 83,254.
The total amount of firefighting ground personnel is at 738, directed by a Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Blue Team. More firefighting personnel and resources continuously arrive to join the effort, including more than 70 engines the past two days.
Additional crews have been reassigned to the Mullen Fire after being released from fires in the Pacific Northwest. It allowed previously unstaffed areas of the fire to be more closely monitored or scouted for possible construction of indirect fire lines and conducting fire severity assessments.
Crews on Monday worked on structure protection in multiple communities, including close to the fire perimeter and a few miles to the south and west.
Fire activity is expected to increase throughout the week because of weather forecasts that include warmer temperatures, lower humidity and higher winds. The natural fuels in extremely rugged terrain consisting of dense vegetation, and live, blowdown and beetle-killed deadfall lodgepole pine trees are contributing factors to increased fire activity.
Firefighters also prioritized assessing properties for damage or destroyed buildings, sharing their findings with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, which took the lead in directly contacting affected homeowners.
An extensive forest closure area, including all roads within, and evacuation zones are still in place, with ongoing firefighting actions focusing on direct and indirect fire line construction, structure triage, structure prep and point protection at: Rambler subdivision, Keystone, Centennial, Foxborough, Fox Park, Wyocolo, Mountain Home, Wold, Beehive, Woods Landing and Bugling Elk.
Protection of Rob Roy Reservoir remains a high priority, as it is a substantial water source for the city of Cheyenne. Another area of value noted as a priority is the Wyoming Infrared Observatory, owned and operated by the University of Wyoming on Jelm Mountain.
A sizable fleet of firefighting aircraft was also operating again since Monday after being grounded for two days during the preceding high winds and gusts that approached 70 mph Saturday.
In addition to the Forest Service’s incident website, more information, links, messages, an interactive website and information for community questions are available via the official Forest Service Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest Twitter account, @FS_MBRTB, and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MullenFire/.
The American Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming released a statement Monday that the organization “continues to assist residents who have been evacuated by the Mullen Fire. Red Cross volunteers are available, and are prepared and ready to accommodate anyone needing information or other assistance.
“The Red Cross is currently providing lodging, food, medical and mental health support and emergency needs for individuals who have been impacted by the Mullen Fire.”
The Red Cross is following strict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities, in addition to other precautions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information on Red Cross assistance or for help, call 970-440-7499.
Other important emergency numbers related to the Mullen Fire are as follows:
Assistance with evacuations: Albany County Emergency Management Agency: 307-721-1815.
Assistance with boarding animals: Albany County Fairgrounds: 307-742-3224.
Questions related to structures and property possibly affected: Albany County Assessor’s Office: 307-721-2511.
Hunting questions: Wyoming Game and Fish Department: 307-745-4046.
More information is also provided on the Albany County website in the “news and announcements” section located at the bottom of the main county webpage: http://www.co.albany.wy.us.
Gov. Gordon released a statement Monday, directing “numerous state resources to provide assistance and support to affected communities and teams battling the Mullen Fire.”
The news release said Gordon has been in constant communication with members of the incident management team and the Wyoming State Forestry Division to monitor the fire and response.
“I want to express my gratitude to the firefighters and support personnel who are battling to protect structures and in the affected areas,” Gordon said in the release. “These folks have been working very hard in a well-coordinated effort under extremely difficult conditions.”
Gordon’s release also stated the multi-agency state response includes Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming State Forestry Division. The Wyoming Army National Guard’s Laramie Armory is being used as an incident command post.
Last Saturday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency released a statement authorizing the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Mullen Fire.
FEMA Regional Administrator Lee dePalo approved the state’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant after receiving the request and determining that the fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.