Jul 22, 2016

New wildfire burns through 2,600 acres east of Ten Sleep

A quickly-moving wildfire northeast of Ten Sleep has forced the evacuation of some areas of the Bighorn National Forest and the closure of a portion of U.S. Highway 16.

“This fire is rapidly growing and continues to spread due to dangerous weather conditions,” the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office said in a Friday night Facebook post. While no injuries or other problems have been reported so far, “multiple structures are threatened,” the Sheriff's Office said.

The Hatchery Fire was discovered around 1 p.m. on Friday; by 6 p.m., it had already burned through about 2,600 acres, fire managers said.

The Hatchery Fire, as seen from the air on Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy Bighorn National Forest
On Friday night, the Washakie and Big Horn County sheriffs issued an evacuation order for Meadowlark Lake, the West Tensleep Lake Road corridor, the Deer Haven Lodge and other camps and cabins in the surrounding areas. The Big Horn County Sheriff's Office said people in those areas were being told to evacuate to Buffalo.

A portion of U.S. Highway 16 between Ten Sleep and Buffalo in the Bighorn National Forest has been closed because of the Hatchery Fire. For updates on the road's status, visit wyoroad.info or call 511.

“Please do not attempt to get into this area,” the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office said in its post. “No traffic entry is being allowed in the area until it is deemed safe to do so.”

According to a Friday night news release from the Bighorn National Forest, the fire began on private land near U.S. Highway 16.

Firefighters started working to suppress the Hatchery fire from the time it was reported, the forest's release said. A Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) dropped at least two loads of retardant on the fire on Friday, with additional drops from heavy and single engine air tankers. At least three helicopters and about 60 firefighters have also been working the fire, with more help on the way.

“This is a very dangerous, rapidly unfolding event,” Bighorn National Forest Supervisor Bill Bass said in the release. “Our first concern is for the safety of the firefighters and the public.”

The fire is burning on the north side of Tensleep Canyon, about seven miles east of the town of Ten Sleep. As of Friday night, it was being managed by Washakie County, the Worland Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, the Wyoming State Forestry Division and the Bighorn National Forest.

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