LARAMIE — The nonstop lingering smoke the past couple of days and nights in the Laramie Valley was the best indication the Mullen Fire kept expanding in adverse weather conditions for firefighting.
The massive forest fire burning in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest about 40 miles west of Laramie and just southwest of Centennial added 14,871 more acres since late Saturday.
According to a 5:30 p.m. Tuesday update on the U.S. Forest Service’s Incident Information website, https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7208/, the Mullen Fire now totals 151,711 acres, with containment measured at 14%.
Some of the containment is to the west edge of the fire; some is to the south edge of the fire, where the forest ends and there is mostly sagebrush north of Colorado Highway 127; and a small section is on the eastern flank of the fire perimeter.
“On the north/northwest corner, crews worked to tie in lines to Forest Service Road 500 north of the Savage Run Wilderness to keep the fire south of the road,” an update Monday morning stated. “Along the north central flank, the multi-day firing neared completion along Forest Service Road 542. They also tied into the Keystone Fire scar and worked in front of the fire in the Rob Roy and Cinnabar Park areas.
“Thick smoke from the multiple operations was carried into Laramie by the robust west wind. The volume of smoke from the northwest reflected the area’s fuel density.”
The increased size of the Mullen Fire prompted a management handover Monday to a Southern Area Type 1 Blue Team.
A Rocky Mountain Type 2 Blue Team managed the fire for more than two weeks prior.
The Mullen Fire started Sept. 17 in the Savage Run Wilderness and has since mostly expanded to the north, east and south.
There are now 1,104 firefighting personnel battling the fire, along with a large fleet of a variety of aerial firefighting aircraft and helicopters when weather conditions and calmer winds allow for safety precautions. Heavy smoke in the area has also limited air operations.
Monday was also described as a red flag day, with “low humidity levels and strong west winds, which switched to the northwest,” an update stated. “Winds gusted to 35 miles per hour throughout the day, with active burning as the fire consumed dead and downed fuels.”
The fire also became very active Monday between Albany and Keystone along Forest Service Road 542, with strong afternoon winds from the west.
“To the southeast, aerial ignitions took place between the fire’s edge between Miller’s Lake and the Pelton Creek area to protect Woods Landing, increase line depth and contain potential long-range spotting across Wyoming Highway 230,” an update Tuesday morning stated.
As of a midday update Tuesday, red flag warnings were still in place, with warm, dry and windy conditions producing critical fire weather that yielded fire perimeter growth mainly on the northwest and then on the east-central perimeter of the fire after the winds shifted out of the northwest.
“Point protection continued in the communities threatened by the Mullen Fire,” the update stated. “Structure protection crews implemented strategies to defend structures in the event the flame front approaches.”
Weather conditions Tuesday were not optimal, with westerly winds gusting to about 30 miles per hour and humidity decreasing to about 10%.
Critical weather conditions are expected to continue, with warm and dry conditions today through Friday and poor humidity recovery during the nights. Winds are expected to increase on Thursday and Friday.
On the Wyoming side of the fire, mandatory evacuations are still in place for the communities of Rambler, Albany, Fox Park, Wold, Woods Landing, Graham and adjacent areas, Lower Keystone and Moore’s Gulch.
Pre-evacuation orders are still in place for Meadow Plains Road south to Yankee Road; areas near Sheep Mountain to Lake Hattie Reservoir and north of Highway 230; and Centennial.
For current information on the multiple evacuations and pre-evacuations, visit the following websites:
— Albany County Sheriff Office (WY) Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Albany-County-Sheriffs-Office-618424944997540.
— Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (CO) Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JacksonCountySheriffOffice.
— Larimer County (CO) website: https://www.larimer.org/emergency/emergency-information.
Road status can also quickly change in response to fire conditions. Colorado Highway 127 and Wyoming Highway 230 on the west side of the fire are now open. For the most current information on Wyoming and Colorado road closures, visit: https://www.wyoroad.info/pls/Browse/WRR.STATIC5?SelectedDistrict=1 and https://cotrip.org/travelAlerts.htm#?roadId=.
No estimate is available about reopening closed roads.
In addition to the Forest Service’s incident website, more information, links, messages, an interactive website and information for community question-and-answer daily livestreams are available via the official Forest Service Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest Twitter account, @FS_MBRTB, and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MullenFire/.
For information on Red Cross assistance, or for help, call 970-440-7499.
Other important emergency numbers related to the Mullen Fire are:
— Assistance with evacuations: Albany County Emergency Management Agency, 307-721-1815.
— Assistance with boarding animals: Albany County Fairgrounds, 307-742-3224.
— Questions related to structures and property possibly affected: Albany County Assessor’s Office, 307-721-2511.
— Hunting questions: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 307-745-4046.
More information is also provided on the Albany County website in the “news and announcements” section located at the bottom of the main county webpage: http://www.co.albany.wy.us.