Wildfire nears famous Yellowstone resort | VailDaily.com

Wildfire nears famous Yellowstone resort

Mead Gruver
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Ken Blackbird, AP/The Cody EnterpriseA helicopter carries a water bucket to hot spots along the ridge line of the Columbine fire Wednesday in Yellowstone National Park near Cody, Wyo.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” Firefighters prepared Thursday to protect a historic lodge in the path of a wildfire that has spread outside Yellowstone National Park.

Large sprinklers were set up around Pahaska Tepee Resort, part of which was built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1904, and co-owner Angela Coe expected to evacuate soon.

She was among the last people still at the smoke-choked resort.

“I’m seriously concerned,” she said.

The resort’s last guests left Tuesday and nearly all staff left Wednesday, when a pre-evacuation order was issued for an eight-mile-long area east of the park. About 100 structures are in that area, including the resort and the Buffalo Bill Boy Scout Camp.

The forecast called for cooler temperatures and lighter wind, but the Columbine fire was expected to keep growing eastward toward the resort three miles east of the park. The fire had blackened some 17,000 acres, more than 26 square miles.

The Buffalo Bill lodge at Pahaska Tepee is on the National Register of Historic Places. Coe said firefighters had covered the edges of the original lodge with heavy foil.

Not since 2003 has Pahaska Tepee been evacuated. She said that was for a wildfire that came “too close for comfort.” But that fire didn’t leave Yellowstone.

The Columbine fire spread outside the park toward the lodge Wednesday afternoon.

“This is a whole different deal from the other fires in that the other fires, they had a lot of helicopters and a lot of resources fighting it,” Coe said. “This one, they haven’t had a lot of resources.

“Now it’s really big. But it’s a little late for our area, I think.”

Fire information officer Jill Cobb said 167 people were fighting the fire in different ways, and more crews were expected. She acknowledged that people and equipment have been slow coming.

“Though this is a high priority, there are a lot of high priorities across the West right now,” she said.

Three helicopters were being used to drop water on the fire’s leading edge, which has spread into the Canfield Creek drainage, which extends just south of Pahaska Tepee.

But Cobb wasn’t sure how effective those efforts might be.

“Fuels there are very challenging and we’re not sure how well the helicopters will do there,” she said.

Cobb said about half the firefighters in the area were focused on protecting Pahaska Tepee. She sympathized with Coe.

“If I were her, I would probably be aware of what’s around. Of course that’s an unsettling feeling, knowing you might have to leave,” she said.

The park’s east entrance remained closed, requiring at least a 29-mile detour for tourists based in Cody and farther for those in the corridor between the town and the park.

The fire began with a lightning strike Aug. 9.

Four other fires were burning around Yellowstone but didn’t threaten to close any roads or facilities. Two remote fires ” a 1,000-acre fire on the Promontory Peninsula in Yellowstone Lake and a 1,500-acre fire east of the lake ” were not being fought.

A 2,800-acre fire that had been declared fully contained several weeks ago also flared up this week and firefighters were called into prevent the fire from spreading.

Also, a 40-acre fire near the park’s south entrance was fully contained.

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