Wyoming’s Britania Fire Tops 24,000 Acres; Containment Increases
UPDATE (10 a.m. Thursday):
Fire managers say 368 personnel are assigned to the Britania Fire, which continues to burn about in timber and short grass some six miles west of Wheatland.
Fire behavior is described as active and running with group torching and short-range spotting. The blaze has made wind-driven runs to the east.
Rough terrain makes firefighters' task more difficult, as do gusty, erratic winds.
Planned actions for Thursday include looking for contingency line on the south edge of the fire perimeter, structure assessment in Palmer Canyon and continued work to secure the perimeter on the northern flank.
Fire managers say the fire will likely continue to spread to the south and east toward Palmer Canyon Road, where numerous structures and at least one powerline are located.
The Britania Fire burning west of Wheatland in southeastern Wyoming continued to grow Wednesday, topping 24,000 acres as of 6 a.m. Thursday.
The blaze, officially at 24,105 acres in size, is now 33 percent contained -- a 10 percent increase since Tuesday evening. Rocky Mountain Team Black, a Type II incident management team, assumed command of the incident at 6 a.m. Thursday.
The fire's growth has been aided by critical fire weather. Gusty winds, warm temperatures and low relative humidity were present in the area Wednesday, prompting a red flag warning from the National Weather Service. Another such warning has been issued for the area for 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. Thursday.
A number of structures are presumed destroyed, likey including several cabins as well as outbuildings. Platte County Emergency Management Coordinator Terry Stevenson said Wednesday that heavy smoke emitted by the fire, combined with dangerous conditions for crews on the ground, have prevented firefighters from accessing the area to confirm the presumed structure losses.
A mandatory evacuation for the area north of Palmer Canyon Road and west of the Laramie River, extending into Albany County, was issued at roughly 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The evacuation center that was set up in Wheatland closed at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, but fire officials have not lifted the evacuation itself.
Terrain in the fire area continues to make the job of fighting the blaze more difficult. Elevation changes, particularly on the southern and western edges of the fire, mean it's tougher for hand crews to maneuver in the area and pose an increased difficulty for establishing fire lines, particularly where the use of heavy equipment is concerned.
The aerial attack has largely consisted of bucket drops from helicopters, coordinated from a fixed-wing aircraft.