Wyoming: Oil Creek Fire doubles in size

UPDATE: July 6, 2012: We posted an update on the Oil Creek fire HERE.


We posted updated information about the Oil Creek fire July 5, 2012.


The Oil Creek fire 2 miles northwest of Newcastle, Wyoming doubled in size  Tuesday. Responding to Red Flag weather conditions and strong winds from a thunderstorm the fire ran to the north to Skull Creek Road adding another 34,000 acres, bringing the total to approximately 56,000 acres.

These maps show the perimeter from Monday night and the perimeter at 12:07 a.m. Wednesday.

Oil Creek Fire map

map North side Oil Creek Fire

The town of Osage was evacuated on Monday, affecting 425 people. As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday the fire was 20 percent contained. Firefighters could not get out ahead of the rapidly moving fire, but they were able to do some effective work using flanking tactics.

Wyoming: Oil Creek fire grows to 20,000 acres, Osage evacuated

Oil Creek Fire, 0014 am MT, July 3, 2012
Oil Creek Fire, 12:14 a.m., MT, July 3, 2012. ESRI/USFS

UPDATE: July 6, 2012: We posted an update on the Oil Creek fire HERE.


We posted updated information about the Oil Creek fire July 5, 2012.


(We posted updated information about the Oil Creek fire on July 4, 2012.)


The Oil Creek fire northwest of Newcastle has grown to approximately 20,000 acres, according to the Wyoming State Forestry Division. The map above (which can be found at ESRI’s web site) shows the perimeter as detected by a fixed wing infrared mapping aircraft at 12:14 a.m. MT, July 3, 2012.

The map below shows the same perimeter, but also indicates by the red dots with white squares, heat detected by a satellite at 12:50 p.m. MT, July 3, 2012. It shows that the fire spread approximately another three miles farther north during the previous 12-hour period.

Oil Creek Fire, 12:50 p.m. MT, July 3, 2012
Oil Creek Fire, 12:50 p.m. MT, July 3, 2012. MODIS/Google

The Wyoming State Forestry Division reported that the town of Osage was evacuated on Monday, affecting 425 people. Highway 16 closed for a while but reopened. Numerous structures are threatened and one barn has burned. The fire is 20% contained. Information number: 307-746-2614.

Wyoming: Oil Creek Fire

UPDATE: July 6, 2012: We posted an update on the Oil Creek fire HERE.


We posted updated information about the Oil Creek fire July 5, 2012.


(We posted updated information about the Oil Creek fire on July 4, 2012.)


Posted at 1:55 p.m. MT, July 1, 2012

We will attempt to gather more information about the Oil Creek fire just northwest of Newcastle, Wyoming today, but here is a map and some preliminary data.

Map of Oil Creek Fire, 11:23 a.m. MT, July 1, 2012
Map of Oil Creek Fire, 11:23 a.m. MT, July 1, 2012, showing heat detected by a satellite. MODIS/Google

The information below is from the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center at 4:30 p.m. June 30, 2012, at which time the fire had burned 4,500 acres:

Significant Events: Pre-evacuation is being conducted for the western sub-divisions and areas of Newcastle for approximately 750 to 1000, Currently 20 structures immediately threatened.

Remarks: Back-up or secondary power lin/transmission line for the town of Newcastle has been destroyed. Primary transmission line immediately threatened. Immediate threat to 20 structures. Pre-evacuations for western parts of Newcastle including the area north of HWY 16 and west of the Dog Pound Rd. Approximately 750 to 1000 people on pre-evacuation notice.

Observed Fire Behavior: Experiencing high to extreme fire behavior with moderate spotting up to 1/2 mile.

Planned Actions: Point protection of homes, Newcastle Wyoming, Mondell Field Airport, HWY 16, primary transmission line.


MAFFS training in Wyoming

MAFFS training at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming,
Wyoming Air National Guard MAFFS training at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming, April 16, 2012. Photo by Mr. Dewey Baars.

Last month the two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) air tankers based at the Channel Islands Air National Guard base in Port Hueneme, California participated in training for wildfire assignments. This week the two Wyoming Air National Guard MAFFS C-130s based in Cheyenne did the same thing. On Monday through Thursday they loaded the 3,000-gallon tanks with water instead of retardant, and flew 100 miles to practice dropping on the rolling terrain of Camp Guernsey in southeast Wyoming.

Besides the four MAFFS aircraft mentioned above, there are four others in Colorado and North Carolina, for a total of eight. The military C-130s are used only when the commercial air tankers on contract are totally utilized on going wildfires.

An article at trib.com has more details about the MAFFS training, and also has this about the federal fleet of air tankers:

…The number of commercial tanker planes under Forest Service contract has declined from 44 in 2002 to 11 this year. The planes are getting old and more expensive to maintain.

Western senators have taken note. Last month, four of them asked the Government Accountability Office to look into whether the Forest Service has done a good job of assessing its aerial firefighting needs.

Last week, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado also expressed concern about the 1950s-era Lockheed P-2Vs that compose the remaining fleet.

“I am unconvinced the USFS’s current air tanker fleet is prepared to adequately address an immense wildfire or even what is sure to be a long fire season,” Udall wrote to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

The U.S. Forest Service is eager to work with Congress to develop a quicker and more effective commercial tanker plane fleet, said Tom Harbour, national director of fire and aviation for the Forest Service.

The Forest Service didn’t call on the military planes at all in 2009, he said, and it’s not a certainty it will need to in the months and years ahead.

The Wyoming National Guard produced a 2.6 minute video about the training.

Video of fire near Dubois, Wyoming

Here is a video that a local resident shot of firefighting activities on August 22, 2011 near Dubois, Wyoming. The action starts at around the 3:00 minute mark. The narration is interesting. As a lead plane makes a pass the videographer says:

I think it’s spraying that stuff.

But the editing is interesting, doing slow-motion replays of the air tanker drop.

Check out the excellent photo of Tanker 910, a DC-10, dropping on a fire in Oregon on Monday.

Norton Point fire in Wyoming expected to burn through the summer

Norton Point fire
Norton Point fire. USFS photo

UPDATE at 9:35 a.m. MT, July 27, 2011:

An infrared mapping flight last night revealed that the Norton Point fire has burned 9,310 9,320 acres — almost triple the last reported acreage. As we said yesterday, you will probably be hearing a lot more about this fire over the next few weeks and months. It could be at least six to nine weeks before a weather-related season ending event stops the spread of this “resource benefit” fire.


July 26, 2011

The Norton Point fire that started on July 22 on the Shoshone National Forest in western Wyoming is expected to burn through the summer. Lightning ignited the fire, which has now blackened 3,500 acres 19 miles north of Dubois and 41 miles east of Grand Teton National Park. Apparently a fire strategy of something less than full suppression has been chosen.

A “short” version of Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team A assumed command of the fire Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of personnel on the fire up to 12, with 60 expected by the end of the day.

Here is an excerpt from a news release by the Incident Management Team today:

The Norton Point Fire requires more full-time attention than the Wind River Ranger District can provide and still attend to local needs. The District brought in Rocky Mountain Interagency Incident Management Team A, with specialized expertise in long-duration fires.

Incident Commander Todd Richardson leads a dozen experienced managers from Wyoming and Colorado. While managing the fire day-to-day, the Team also will plan responses to likely fire growth for the rest of the summer. Working under the District’s direction, the Team took responsibility for the fire at 6 a.m. today [Tuesday].

Norton Point fire map 7-26-2011
Map of the Norton Point fire, showing heat detected by satellites on July 26, 2011

You may be hearing more about this fire in the coming weeks and months.