Archive for Friday, July 27, 2001

Wyoming fire chases firefighters away

July 27, 2001


— Winds died Thursday night, temporarily easing the wildfire threat to 100 homes outside Jackson but not before the flames forced firefighters to abandon firebreaks and scramble to save themselves.

Fire spokesman Ron Steffens said the strong winds fanning the fire died about sunset and no homes burned. He said fire crews would stay near the expensive dwellings through the night.

Steffens said weather forecasts for Friday called for the wind to kick up again in the afternoon, renewing the threat to the houses.

Before the wind died, firefighters called the situation dangerous.

"My gut feeling is that we are probably in a very serious situation," fire incident commander Joe Carvelho had said, with a towering column of gray smoke rising behind him.

The blaze surged across a firebreak as strong winds pushed embers as much as a half-mile ahead of the fire and closer to the homes that had been evacuated a day earlier.

Firefighters had hoped a ridge with sparse tree cover above the homes might slow the blaze, but the fire climbed right to the crest and was within a half mile of the expensive housing development.

Freshly bulldozed fire lines near the edges of the north-moving fire were abandoned as the flames jumped ahead. Fire managers, who had hoped to eventually connect the lines and halt the fire, scrambled to plot new strategy. Air tankers dropping retardant were all that were attacking the fire's leading edge.

"This fire is as hazardous and burning as aggressively as any other large fire that I have been on," said Carvelho, who has fought fires from Alaska to Florida.

He said late Thursday that 50 percent of the fire had been contained but remained dangerous near the housing development.

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