Officials hold Fontenelle Fire public meeting
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
July 2, 2012
Fire officials held two public meetings on Monday, July 2nd to give updates on the status of the Fontenelle Fire. The first meeting was held at 5:00PM in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale Library. About fifty people attended. The second meeting was held at 7:30 p.m. at the Latter-Day Saints church, 2250 Piney Drive, in Big Piney. This Pinedale meeting was broadcast live on KPIN 101.1 FM radio.
Pinedale Mayor Stephen Smith started the Pinedale meeting and said they were making every effort to get updated information out to the public and keep the rumors down. Information about the fire is available online on Inciweb.org, TetonFires.com, the Bridger-Teton National Forest website (http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/", and PinedaleOnline.com. Updates are broadcast on KPIN 101.1 FM Radio. The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office is also sending out updates as warranted. He added that the rumor that the Pinedale 4th of July fireworks celebration had been cancelled was not true - the fireworks are still planned to take place Wednesday evening as part of the Pinedale’s Independence Day festivities.
- This fire has been a challenge due to the oil and gas infrastructure in the area, but there have been no wells or structures lost to date. The Denbury plant survived without damage. The only loss at the helium plant was a dumpster full of trash and two pallets of bags of drilling mud (the bags burned, not the drilling mud). Fire managers are aiming for July 9th to start turning the systems back on at the oil and gas wells in the area. They are working to get those wells back online as soon as possible.
- Terrain also poses a challenge in fighting the fire, due to the rugged and steep mountainous area with a lot of dead and down fuel material.
- This is a high-priority fire in Wyoming, and the management team has been able to get the resources they need to fight it. A NIMO (National Incident Management Organization) team has been brought in as additional help with logistics in managing the expected long duration nature of this fire.
- Snider Basin cabins, the Middle Piney Summer Homes and Sacajawea campground were saved.
- Wildlife appears to be moving out of the path of the fire pretty well. Big game appear to like the ash from a fire and return soon into burned areas after a fire, often appear to like rolling in the ash, and find better grass growth not long after a fire has moved through. Fire officials have already seen moose, deer and sage grouse back in areas the fire has moved through.
- Cattle are being moved out of the path of the fire. Fire managers understand the concern over loss of forage for ranchers and are working to coordinate and address the concerns of ranchers.
- The fire may last for weeks or even months due to the nature of the fuels and hot, dry weather conditions over the summer. The fire is expected to continue to move generally north and east, rather than west into the Grey's River drainage.
- The grounding of all C-130 firefighting air tankers nationally due to a fatal crash in South Dakota several weeks ago should not impact the aerial resources on this fire. Those planes have not been part of the aviation mix on this fire.
- Sublette County Commissioners Andy Nelson and Joel Bousman said they are receiving regular updates on the fire, are coordinating efforts particularly for area landowners, ranchers and grazing issues related to the fire. The public is welcome to contact them at any time with questions or concerns. They expect to pass a county-wide fire ban at tomorrow’s (Tuesday, July 3rd) regular commissioner meeting.
- The cause of the fire is still under investigation and not known at this time. There was no lightning in the area at the time.
- The management team thanked the public for their patience as the firefighting efforts move forward. They asked people to resist the urge to go out into the area to get close to the fire or go out on the back roads to view it from in the path of the fire. The public is asked to be VERY careful with fire, especially with the 4th of July coming up.