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Good progress on Burroughs Fire; crew of 145 on scene
Sep 4, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
The 1,794-acre Burroughs Fire north of Dubois was 14 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, officials said.
No injuries or property damage have been reported in connection with the blaze, which was started by a lightning strike at about 10 p.m. Thursday. It is burning about 12 miles north of Dubois on a ridge above Burroughs Creek in Upper Horse Creek Basin.
Nearly 145 firefighters still are assigned to the fire, which is consuming mostly dead and down timber affected by dense beetle kill. U.S. Forest Service fire information officer Carl Jungck said the blaze will leave the area rejuvenated.
"It's the beginning of the new forest that's going to be out there," Jungck said Tuesday. "It's just Mother Nature. ... In 10 years we're going to see more aspens, and then a lot more small trees."
Firefighters have been stationed near ranch structures, some of which were within 100 yards of the flames, but Jungck said the area of containment is actually near the fire's origin.
"They're trying to work around what we call the heel," Jungck said. "(They'll) establish an anchor point at the heel of the fire, and then ... flank it. You never really want to get out in front of it. You kind of corral it back into itself."
Because of the nearby structures, however, he said crews were fighting the blaze from the front side as well. On Sunday, he said four residences and another 20 structures were threatened by flames.
"(Firefighters) did point protection," Jungck said. "If they can find a good, safe place, they'll go in there and just protect those structures."
In other areas, he said crews added to the fire to make it easier to control. Jungck said the blaze was spreading outward in thin "fingers" that firefighters worked to unite into one mass.
"Firefighters have taken drift torches and closed those fingers of fire," Jungck said. "(They) try to take those fingers and tie them into each other to get a line more controlled. ... They corral it with fire."
The blaze is burning in an area of steep topography that is difficult to access, so once structures are protected, Jungck said firefighters likely will move ahead of the flames to areas that are easier to defend, like open meadows and roads.
"Though they're still aggressively fighting it, they might come back with a more defensive strategy and let it burn out to have more control," he said.
Fire managers say the management strategy is to keep the fire west of USFS Road 507 and north of USFS Road 285 while minimizing exposure to ground crews and air resources through indirect firefighting. Helicopters were used for bucket drops Tuesday as needed, but no air tankers were deployed.
A Type 3 management team is in place, with the incident command post set up at the Dubois Volunteer Fire Department. A staging area and helibase have been established at the Horse Creek Guard Station. There are three type 2 crews, two type 1 crews, eight engines and two type 3 and one type 2 helicopters on scene.
Initially, Jungck's agency and local firefighters requested backup on the fire from smoke jumpers, helicopters and slurry bombers throughout the region. Rain over the weekend slowed the flames, however, and several crews from out of state were sent home. One regional hotshot team remained Tuesday, Jungck said, but in the future more help may be required.
"Over the next couple of weeks ... this fire will probably dry out, and it may come back again," he said. "You'll see more actions out there, depending on what the fire behavior is, and where the fire burns."
If the flames continue to affect downed trees, he said firefighters likely will let the blaze burn. But they will take action if it moves to the south toward private land and structures.
"You'd see us ramping up with those more firefighters again," he said. "But right now after the initial attack we've ramped down a little bit."
He said fire analysts are on scene preparing long- and short-term predictions for the Burroughs Fire.
The nearby T-Cross and Moose Willow ranches still are under mandatory evacuation as a result of the fire. Horse Creek Campground also is under mandatory evacuation, and the Old Livingston Place is under pre-evacuation notice. USFS Road 510 (Burroughs Creek Loop) is closed, while USFS Road 258 (double Cabin Road) and USFS Road 511 (Brent Creek Road) are open to traffic with restrictions. Both roads will be closed to traffic 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily to allow for safe passage of fire traffic and personnel. No stopping or camping will be allowed in the Burroughs Fire closure area, and officials said possible evacuations and closures could occur with short notice, as fire conditions can change quickly.