Crews on 151,711-acre Mullen Fire crews face red flag conditions Monday - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Crews on 151,711-acre Mullen Fire crews face red flag conditions Monday

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

CASPER, Wyo– Crews on the Mullen Fire west of Laramie in the Snowy Range are bracing Monday for another active fire day as critically dry and windy conditions persist.

“It will be an active fire day,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman told Oil City News Monday morning, Oct. 5.

A red flag warning is effect from the National Weather Service for much of southeast Wyoming, including the Snowy Range, until 7:00 pm Monday. 15-20 mph west winds with gusts up to 40 mph are expected, and humidity is expected to be as low as 9-15%. The Haines Index is listed at “4”, with “6” being the most extreme conditions for fire growth.

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The fire burned 11,571 acres Sunday, according to Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team’s aerial surveys. It is currently listed as having burned 151,711 acres.

Crews have been working to shore up structure protections in communities like Fox Park, Miller Lake, and Mountain Home that lie between Highway 230 and the Mullen Fire’s southeast spread. Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team Incident Planning Ops Trainee Deon Steinle called this a “critical area.”

Those preparations were tested Sunday by strong activity in the “fingers” of the fire’s perimeter near these communities.

“Our long days in there have been really paying off,” Steinle said Monday morning at a live operations update.

Red areas denote the Mullen Fire’s growth Sunday, Oct. 4 (U.S. Forest Service, Inciweb)
Mullen Fire perimeter at 8:00 p.m. 10/4/2020 (U.S. Forest Service, Inciweb)

Crews have also been burning fuels along Highway 230 to widen it as buffer against the Mullen Fire’s southeastern advance. Crews were also able to address all spot fires that had crossed the highway Sunday, Steinle said. The Mullen Fire has been known to cast off burning embers and debris that become established as many as 3 miles ahead of the main perimeter.

Another area that grew significantly Sunday was in Branch I to the north, where the fire initially spread two weeks ago. This was expected with a westerly shift of the winds, Steinle said, and divisions had been digging lines northeast of this spread.

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

Due to this potential northeast spread, Albany County Emergency Management Agency and Albany County Sheriff’s Office has requested the Centennial area to stay alert and continue to prepare for potential evacuations.

This area includes Centennial, extending northwest to the Snowy Range along highway 130, and all areas west of Highway 11 in the valley.

“Please be prepared to leave immediately if an evacuation order is called for,” officials said.

16% containment has been reported, including on the 3-way tie in of WY-230/CO-127 and CO-125 in Jackson County, Colorado. Steinle said much of the western perimeter was in “patrol and mop-up status” Monday.

“We feel really good about what we have in there,” Steinle said.

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

The Mullen Fire began Sept. 17 and spread quickly through a “sea” of lodgepole pine, much of it dead and downed by a beetle-kill epidemic in the late 1980s and early 90s. Crews are working in “extremely rugged” mountainous terrain.