Crews battle "very active" Mullen Fire in critical areas Monday near Albany - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Crews battle “very active” Mullen Fire in critical areas Monday near Albany

Mullen Fire (Mullen Fire Information, Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo –The Mullen Fire burning west of Laramie in the Medicine Bow National Forest was “very active throughout the fire area” Monday, Oct. 5, according to Rocky Mountain Incident Command during a live briefing.

Red flag conditions (critically low humidity, warmer temperatures, gusty west winds) Monday meant the fire continued to test the defensive lines crews have installed to protect communities in and around the fire’s perimeter. The fire has also advanced in several places to Wyoming Highway 230, where crews have been burning fuels along the road to improve it as a control feature.

Red areas denote the Mullen Fire’s growth Sunday, Oct. 4 (U.S. Forest Service, Inciweb)

One area of concern for Incident Command Monday was the northern part of Branch II. Crews have been conducting burn operations along the 542 forest road hoping to create a continuous line of defense from Albany to Keystone. The fire had crossed the road in some places Monday, Operations Section Chief Trainee Deon Steinle said.

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Steinle also reported Monday that some “spots” (small fires that begin as offcast burning embers or debris) had become established in the Albany area and that crews defending the community had had to adopt a defensive posture there.

There was also increased activity north near the Rob Roy Reservoir, where activity had been subdued for the past week.”It’s been pretty quiet around here, but it woke up today,” Steinle said.

Crews have also begun to survey area north of the fire, including Centennial and the Highway 130 corridor, for structure protection and line defense assessments, with operations set to take place as soon as Tuesday.

Mullen Fire perimeter at 8:00 p.m. 10/4/2020 (U.S. Forest Service, Inciweb)

There had been no field reports of additional structures lost, Steinle said, adding that the Albany County Sheriff’s would be responsible for any such notifications. 29 homes and 31 outbuildings had been declared lost by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Sept. 29, in the lower Keystone, Lake Creek, and Foxborough communities.

Public and firefighter safety is Incident Command’s top priority, said Incident Commander Michael Haydon.

He said the best chance to check the Mullen Fire’s growth involved removing fuels from its path and hoping for favorable weather conditions.

“When we get even a little amount of moisture, it revives firefighters a whole lot on the ground,” Haydon said. He added that a 1-2 mph difference in wind speeds could add up to thousands of acres burned in a day.

The fire will continue to produce smoke and possibly large, visible smoke columns Monday afternoon, Haydon said.

The Southern Area Type 1 Incident Management Team is shadowing Rocky Mountain Blue Team Monday to ensure a smooth transition of leadership tomorrow morning at 6:00 am. The Type II team completes its 14-day “tour” on the Mullen Fire.

“They’ve been unbelievable an focused on all the right stuff,” said Russ Bacon, U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

“We do hope for the safety of our firefighters,” Governor Mark Gordon said at press conference Monday. “We thank them for their labors and we look forward hopefully to their ability to contain this fire, even though we don’t anticipate full containment until the end of this month.”

The fire is currently listed as having burned 151,711 acres as of 8:00 pm Sunday, Oct 4. It began Sept. 17 in the Savage Run Wilderness.