(Gillette, Wyo.) "It could just take one ember across the line where there isn't anybody who could get to it, and it could get started going again. It's not out, it's not fully contained, and it's not controlled."
That's the word on the Cedar Draw fire from the BLM's Tony Davis today during a press conference at Campbell County Fire Station #1. Incident Command is hopeful, however, that they've finally gotten a good handle on the wildfire, which as of this afternoon was estimated at 3,744 acres. It is around 35% contained.
Fire Chief Bill Shank says that the timber fire in a remote area near the Cedar Draw Recreation Area was only a few hundred acres on Saturday morning, but a wind shift and unusually high humidity throughout the afternoon caused the burning to spread over thousands of acres by nightfall, when other agencies were called in. As of Monday afternoon, over 200 fire personnel are on scene.
Five homes on two ranches, the Glass Ranch and the Cow Creek Ranch, are in danger. Numerous outbuildings for those ranches are also threatened by the fire. Some of the land involved is BLM land, but most of it is privately owned, and without the cooperation of local landowners, firefighters would have a more difficult time surrounding the fire.
Currently hotshot crews are staying overnight at the Cow Creek Ranch, which stands at the eastern edge of the fire. It gives them a chance to get back to the fire quickly, as the Green Hill area is one of the biggest concerns for command crews. So far there have been no injuries and no accidents, and they aren't aware of any livestock lost.
Along with CCFD and BLM, Wyoming State Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Campbell County Road and Bridge, local contractors, local landowners, and the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security are all involved with firefighting efforts. One landowner provided his own blade to help cut containment lines.
There were four helicopters and two air tankers helping with containment on Sunday, until their base at Campbell County Airport ran out of fire retardant. They're hoping to be resupplied soon. But command stressed that a fire cannot just be fought with aircraft, it take hand crews on the ground to fight it. If the weather holds up, they're hoping the fire can be contained by the end of the week.
"If it doesn't blow up and get out somewhere and make new ground, we'll call that a success," David said. "If we continue to hold it a day after that, we'll start feeling pretty good."
Firefighters are already shorthanded across the state with the Cliff Creek Fire burning in Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Lava Mountain Fire burning in Shoshone National Forest. Shortly before this wildfire began in Campbell County, the Hatchery Fire ignited in Ten Sleep, which is also requiring local resources. Smoke seen around Gillette this weekend was actually from the fire in Ten Sleep, not the Cedar Draw north of town.
Today has been the hottest day since the fire started. Chief Shank thinks it will be a good test of the containment lines, and whether they can hold up.
"If we can get through the day without any major escapes, we'll be pretty good," said Chief Shank.