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Bear Cub Fire exceeds 6,000 acres in county

Jul 8, 2012 - From staff reports

A temporary closure order has been put in place in the fire area.

Firefighters battling a forest fire burning in Fremont County are getting a break because the new fire is adjacent to an area that burned last year, limiting growth in that direction.

The Bear Cub Fire was discovered during the afternoon on July 3 about 27 miles east of Moran in remote Fremont County.

At the time of discovery, the fire had consumed about 300 acres. U.S. Forest Service Fire monitors estimated the burned acreage at 6,141 by Saturday afternoon.

The fire is burning in fallen timber and standing trees killed by bark beetles, but no structures are threatened.

Bridger-Teton National Forest managers have issued a temporary closure order for the area around the fire.

The closure are includes the area south of Forest Service trail 6051 and 6054 as well as the area east of Forest Service Trail 6047 and 6051s. This closed area extends to the Teton Wilderness boundary.

The firefighting effort caught a break because the 2011 Nowlin fire site is just to the north of this new fire and is providing a natural barrier, "which is helping to reduce fire behavior on north flank of the fire," a Forest Service statement noted.

The fire had produced a very visible column of smoke by 3:30 in the afternoon and is crowning in the treetops. Crown fires are defined as fires that move through the canopy of trees instead of burning along the ground. Crown fires are described as "extremely dangerous and very difficult to fight."

A column of smoke has been visible for several days, and wind patterns have driven smoke into Dubois.

The Forest Service said 49 firefighters and a helicopter were on the site Saturday, "anchoring into the 2011 Nowlin fire constructing hand line and applying back burn operations to secure that line."

Cooler weather, along with some rain, slowed the pace of the fire Thursday night, but fire conditions this weekend are listed officially as "very high."

Under the closer order, fire restrictions include:

- Lighting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, barbecue or grill is allowed only at designated recreation sites such as established campgrounds or picnic areas.

- Use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel, or use of a fully enclosed sheepherder type stove with a spark arrester screen is permitted.

- Smoking is allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, building (unless otherwise prohibited), developed recreation site, or while in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials (i.e. parking lots, developed campsites, or locations surrounded by water).

- Operating a chain saw is permitted only when equipped with a USDA or SAE approved spark arrester that is properly installed and in effective working order. Operators must also carry a fire extinguisher and a shovel.

- Discharge of fireworks and use of explosives requiring blasting caps are prohibited.

- Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame is only allowed in cleared areas of at least 10 feet in diameter. A fire extinguisher must be at the location. Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, and/or by imprisonment for more than six months.

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