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Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2001

Cloud cover aids in fight against fires

August 5, 2001

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— Firefighters had help from the weather Saturday as they worked to hem in a 2,800-acre blaze near the park's east entrance.

The winds stayed manageably brisk and dark clouds moved in Saturday, bringing the hope of rain and thunderstorms. Today's forecast was predicted to be slightly warmer and drier.

Firefighters estimated they had contained 15 percent of the blaze. Officials said no evacuations were planned.

"We're having another good day, the fire hasn't grown any," said fire spokesman Bobby Kitchens. "We expected the containment percentage to go up today."

Four crews of firefighters camped overnight at the fire Friday. That gave them a head start Saturday morning in putting out flare-ups in the adjacent Shoshone National Forest, Kitchens said.

Some 700 firefighters have been battling the blaze on the western side, aided by tanker planes dropping retardant and helicopters dumping water along the fire's east side.

Employee housing inside the park and the Pahaska Tepee resort just outside the gate were still considered at risk.

A finger of the fire crept within a half-mile of the east entrance on Thursday, but the major push was southeast toward the Shoshone National Forest, fire spokeswoman Kim Smith said.

The park's east entrance remained closed, but four others were open.

There has been little effect on tourism, said Rick Hoeninghausen, spokesman for Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Because the fire is small compared to the 2.2 million-acre park, "people seem to be completely, almost unaware," he said.

But Keith Dahlem, who manages Shoshone Lodge about 5 miles away, said he was losing up to $4,000 a day because of slow business.

"We've got one guy fishing. He's had a great week of fishing. No competition," Dahlem said.

Meanwhile, firefighters said the Elk Mountain Fire along the South Dakota-Wyoming state line had been largely tamed. The blaze consumed trees and vegetation on 12,545 acres.

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