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Guernsey State Park Wildfire: Pleasant Valley Road Closed, Air Tankers Drop More Water

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16 April 2014

Guernsey, WY - Pleasant Valley Road between Guernsey and Hartville is now closed to all non-emergency traffic as air tanker support will be dumping water in that area, and ground crews continue fire suppression efforts.

 

A wildfire that started Saturday afternoon has burned over 2500 acres inside Guernsey State Park, with 20 percent containment, but officials are optimistic of firefighting today.

Multiple homes and cabins were threatened along with many structures inside the park as high winds from the west moved the extreme fire east between Guernsey and Hartville.

The fire was officially upgraded from a Type III to a Type II incident, because of the growth of the fire, whereby fire crews connected with the State Forestry Division are able to respond and fight the fire. This change occurred under delegation from Platte County, State Forestry and the Bureau of Land Management.

Jane Carlson is the Platte County Emergency Management Coordinator an she says that crews are very optimistic about containing the fire today.

"It was a very quite night from what dispatch is telling me. I know yesterday, the talk was that if we could make it through the night they [firefighting crews] would have really good conditions to fight the fire today," said Carlson.

Carlson says that the town of Guernsey is safe to return to, but residents of Hartville and along the Pleasant Valley Road area east of the park need to remain on alert and not return if they already self-evacuated, until the clear clear is given.

Hot shot crews from Oregon, Washington, Montana, and South Dakota have re-entered Guernsey state park to tackle what is being called an optimistic day for firefighting crews battling this wildfire that started Saturday afternoon.

Tim Troxel, Squad Leader with the Tatanka Hot Shots from Custer, SD, whose crew also responded to the Cow Camp Fire near Laramie Peak, says that his crew and others worked late into the night last night in the park, battling high winds to help reduce the fire going into today.

"We actually bumped from Division Zulu to Alpha, and did a lot of structure protection around the reservoir, and prepped the dozer line, and that's pretty much where we ended for the night.  People that have been doing this for a long time [fighting fires], know that this could be one of those season that you could talk about for a long time.  It's going to be a busy summer," said Troxel. 

According to the Wyoming State Forestry Division fire information website, a unified command of firefighting crews from Platte and Goshen counties, along with the state forest service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and resources from the Cow Camp Fire were dispatched to the incident.

Gary Schoene is the spokesman for Wyoming State Parks and he says between 500 and 1,000 visitors were evacuated from the park when the blaze erupted Saturday. Police escorted evacuees into the park early Sunday to retrieve their belongings and recreational vehicles. Authorities have opened a shelter for evacuees at the 4-H building in Wheatland as well as the Goshen County Fairgrounds in Torrington.

The Wyoming State Forestry Division reports that air and ground support responded to the incident. Structures, campgrounds, RV’s and power lines were threatened, but no structures have been confirmed destroyed and no injuries or fatalities.

The Platte County Office of Emergency Management said that residents along the Pleasant Valley Road east of the park were evacuated Sunday evening, after reports that the fire jumped the lake due to strong winds from the west.

Acting Wyoming Governor, Senate President Jim Anderson, activated the Wyoming National Guard Sunday evening to assist in fighting the wildfire. Senator Anderson is Acting Governor while Governor Matt Mead is in China and Secretary of State Max Maxfield is outside of Wyoming. Senator Anderson made the decision to call on Guard resources after receiving a request for support from the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

“There are already homes evacuated in this area and given the analysis of the State Forester, Governor Mead’s staff and the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security and I felt it was appropriate to activate the Wyoming National Guard,” Acting Governor Jim Anderson said.

Sunday afternoon three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and their support teams arrived in Guernsey. They were able to start dumping water on the fire this evening. Also in the area are Guard members helping to notify residents of possible evacuations. The 41 Wyoming National Guard troops onsite and working in support of the mission also include 9 firefighters manning two fire trucks.

“We are glad [that] we are able to assist in this fire fighting effort,” said Major General Luke Reiner, Wyoming’s Adjutant General. “The National Guard's role is to assist when called by the governor and we are proud to have this role in protecting Wyoming's residents and its natural assets.”

The fire erupted just days after the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources announced fire bans at both Glendo and Guernsey State Parks effective immediately “due to increasingly dry conditions.” The ban prohibits wood fires at both parks, even in provided fire rings. Propane and charcoal grills with lids are permitted at both parks.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, and the park and roads leading into the park are closed until further notice.

Updated reports will be broadcast as information warrants.

 

 

 

 

 

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