UPDATE at 12:30 a.m. July 19, 2011:
WildCAD reports that the Whoopup fire southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming has burned 2,500 acres.
I had the opportunity to take some photos at the Whoopup fire that started Monday morning southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming near the South Dakota/Wyoming state line. At about 4 p.m. the fire had burned an estimated 1,000 acres, according to firefighters at the scene. WildCAD shows that it was reported at 1:45 a.m. on Monday, July 18. I have not heard what the cause was, but another fire a few miles farther east was started by lightning.
The photo above shows air tanker 07, a P2V, making a drop to protect some structures in Ferguson Canyon. The lead plane kept making low passes from every direction, trying to figure out a way to get in there (and out of there) amid the smoke. Finally two air tankers showed up, 07 and 45, and following the lead plane one at a time, made it look easy.
In cooperation with the fire managers, deputies from the Weston County Sheriffs office evacuated approximately 14 homes in Ferguson Canyon. When I left the area at 7:30 p.m. the fire had spotted into and across the canyon and was burning along the road at the east end of the canyon. The fire also threatened the fire lookout tower on Elk Mountain, causing the Forest Service employee there to evacuate to the USFS office in Newcastle.
The fire name comes from a nearby creek, Whoopup Creek, which is near the first report of the fire.
The main factors driving the fire are standing snags and fallen trees left over from a previous fire in the area, grass and herbaceous vegetation in the old burn scar, and the temperature on Monday which reached 100 degrees according to the trusty thermometer in my truck. The wind was moderate on Monday afternoon, estimated at 4-6 mph with occasional stronger gusts, mostly out of the southwest. The RAWS weather station in Red Canyon 24 miles southeast of the fire recorded a high temperature of 101 degrees at 5:00 p.m. on Monday and winds at 3-8 with gusts in the low teens. The low relative humidity was 24% — not extreme weather at all, except for the temperature.
The weather forecast for Tuesday afternoon in the area of the fire will be about the same as Monday, with a high temperature of 97, relative humidity of 24%, and winds at 5-7 out of the southwest, west, and northwest.
Below is a map showing the approximate location of the Whoopup fire.
As shown in the map below, most of the Whoopup fire is burning in the footprint of a previous fire six to twelve years ago.
Visit our home page to see more current news about the WhoopUp fire.
Update 7-26-2011: we put together a slide show of more photos.
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