Aug 4, 2016

Whit Fire grows to 9,600 acres; meeting set for Thursday evening

The Whit Fire claimed two structures on Tuesday and blazed its way from the North Fork to the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

The fire, burning about 15 miles west of Cody on the sides of Sheep Mountain, was reported Tuesday afternoon.

Whit Fire managers estimated its size at around 3,000 acres on Wednesday afternoon, but a overnight flight with infrared equipment later found the fire had grown to 9,647 acres. Wednesday was “a day of very active burning,” said Kristie Salzmann, Shoshone National Forest public affairs officer.

Fire managers have scheduled a 6 p.m. public meeting at Cody's Livingston Elementary School to share information about the fire and discuss their plans for fighting it.

A helicopter dumps water on an edge of the Whit Fire on Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy Yancy Bonner

As of Thursday morning, the Park County Sheriff's Office and Park County Office of Homeland Security had evacuated multiple areas on the North and South Forks: Whit Creek Road, the Big Hat Ranch, Golden Key Ranch, Simek Ranch and Road 6NS – including the Bear Creek Subdivision.

"All residents in the South and North Fork should monitor fire conditions closely and be prepared to leave at a moment's notice," the Sheriff's Office said in a Thursday morning Facebook post. In an earlier posting, the Sheriff's Office noted that it can not force anyone to leave their homes, "but rest assured that if we advise a mandatory evacuation, the situation is life-threatening and we strongly urge residents to leave under those conditions."

The Sheriff's Office said there's been a steady increase in the amount of traffic on the South Fork Highway because of curious onlookers; it asked people on Thursday to avoid the South and North Fork areas of the fire unless they live or have official business in the area.

"Also, it is a crime to interfere with fire fighting efforts so please stay away and let the fire fighters (do) their jobs," the office said in a post.

The Shoshone National Forest has closed the Green Creek and Twin Creek trails because of the blaze; the BLM has closed the Sheep Mountain Trail.

Approximately 175 people were working the Whit Fire as of Thursday morning, Salzmann said. That included seven helicopters, three air attack planes, 18 engines and three hands crews – including the Wyoming Interagency Hotshots and the Payson Interagency Hotshots.

A map of the Whit Fire, as of Wednesday night.
The Central West Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team took over operations on Wednesday, assisted by the Bureau of Land Management, Shoshone National Forest, Park County and the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

Area fire departments, BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming State Forestry personnel have all fought the fire, Salzmann said.

The Cody Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched early Tuesday afternoon and requested the Powell Volunteer Fire Department to provide mutual aid; Powell firefighters complied around 2 p.m. that day. Six Powell firefighters and their trucks were on the fire Tuesday afternoon and late into the evening.


Powell firefighters again were called to the scene by Park County Dispatch around 1 p.m., Wednesday and they expected to remain through the evening.

Authorities have not yet released any information about how the fire started, saying only that the cause is “under investigation.” Salzmann did say the fire began in grass and sagebrush and moved to areas with trees. She did not know what type of structures were destroyed by the fire on Tuesday.

The Whit Fire was zero percent contained as of Thursday morning.

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