At a meeting in Cody, Wyoming’s Yellowstone Valley Inn last night, officials cautioned the June Fire just outside Yellowstone could burn for a while longer.
Approximately 50 people turned out to hear from firefighting representatives about their predictions for both June Fire and the fire season in general.
Last night, we reported the fire, which sparked earlier this week in Shoshone National Forest, had grown to nearly 2,000 acres. Currently, the fire is one-and-a-half miles from U.S. Highway 14/16/20 and approximately 13 miles from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
As of yet, June Fire has not been contained, since it has a supply of heavy fuels and is currently burning in dangerous terrain for firefighters. If it spreads any further, it could close the highway, which essentially closes the East Entrance.
According to the Cody Enterprise, officials are upgrading their classification of the fire from Type III to Type II; further, management duties have been turned over to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black. According to Inciweb, 233 personnel have been assigned to June Fire; further, they expect to have the fire contained by September 30th, 2017. From the Enterprise:
Around half a dozen members of the Black Team were at the meeting, as were more than a dozen Forest Service personnel and Martin Knapp, Park County’s Homeland Security coordinator.
Black Team Incident Manager Shane Greer explained his team had divided the fire into three zones designated as Division A, Division E and Division T.
In the coming days, he said, firefighters will concentrate on constructing fire lines to the north in the hope of protecting U.S. 14/16/20 West, and he said keeping the highway open is one of his team’s highest priorities.
Even higher up the list, though, he said, is firefighter safety.
Much of the June Fire is burning in difficult to access rocky terrain bounded by cliffs, and Greer warned those factors could slow operations.
Greer and other officials stressed that flying drones in the fire zone could kill firefighters, and added that such activity constitutes a federal offense.
The fire, Greer said, has the most potential to spread to the north and east. After fire lines are constructed, crews could conduct burn-outs in those areas in order to reduce fuel loads and limit the fire’s potential to spread.
Those burn-outs are days if not weeks away, however.
The Enterprise also reports Team Black will use Super Scoopers to try and douse the fire, using water from Yellowstone Lake—at the behest of park officials. Team Black had previously looked at using water from the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, but it is currently too debris-filled for the purposes of firefighting.
Although the mood was on the whole genial, the Enterprise reports that officials are girding themselves for a long, smoky summer:
“We will likely be burning for quite a while. There will be smoke in the air for quite a while,” Shoshone National Forest Acting Supervisor Eric Watrud said.
Elk Fork Trail and Campground have been closed, as has Blackwater Trail. They are expected to stay closed as long as the fire is ongoing.