Fire closes Yellowstone entrance again |

Fire closes Yellowstone entrance again

Mead Gruver
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” Rugged terrain and large numbers of beetle-killed trees promised to complicate efforts to contain a wildfire that once again has closed the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

On Wednesday, the Columbine fire had crept within just a couple hundred yards of the east entrance road at Sylvan Pass, and the short-term forecast called for erratic winds and warmer temperatures.

“We’re going to have conditions today that are conducive to large fire growth,” fire incident commander Mark Grant said Wednesday.

It was bad news for late summer tourists staying in Cody or the many lodges between the town and Yellowstone. With the east entrance closed, the detour to get into Yellowstone through the northeast entrance on the Montana line is at least 29 extra miles.

As of Wednesday morning, the fire had burned about 12,000 acres ” nearly 19 square miles ” just inside the park’s eastern border. Cooler weather and higher humidity had tamed the fire a bit Tuesday, allowing the east entrance to reopen, but the fire flared up again around 4 p.m.

The east entrance closed again around 7 p.m. and remained closed Wednesday.

Firefighters were focusing on keeping flames away from the east entrance road, which crosses a dry, south-facing slope. Just east of Sylvan Pass, the fire had crossed Middle Creek onto the narrow strip between the creek and the road, Grant said.

Firefighters were less concerned for the time being about scraping a barrier around the fire to keep flames from spreading in other directions. Grant said the steep terrain ” and how as many as half of the area’s trees are beetle-killed ” makes venturing deep into the fire area a dangerous proposition.

Beetle kill has been a problem in much of the West following several consecutive mild winters, which have enabled bark beetles to survive from one summer to the next.

“It’s going to be nearly impossible to get all the way around this thing,” Grant said.

He said the fire likely would persist until there is a “season-ending event.” In Yellowstone, that’s often the first large snowstorm.

About 110 people were fighting the fire in different capacities. They had help from two water-dropping helicopters and eight fire engines.

The fire began with a lightning strike Aug. 9.

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