It is still unclear what caused the blaze that is burning in the Medicine Bow National Forest South of Douglas, but emergency responders have been working day and night to put a stop to it.
The Russell’s Camp fire, as it is being called, has already consumed an estimated 2,570 acres of private and public land near Cold Springs Road, including most of Buffalo Peak near Russell’s Campground and Campbell Creek Campground. More than 200 firefighting personnel were on the scene as of Tuesday.
With the help of Converse County Sheriff deputies June 18, the National Forest Service asked residents living in the area to evacuate to a safe location closer to Douglas. The Rec Center is currently being used to house evacuees needing a place to stay.
The blaze began around 3 p.m. June 17 approximately 30 miles south of Douglas and continues to grow at this time.
Fire combat is being managed by the NFS at this time with no word on how successful containment efforts had been by Tuesday afternoon.
Thus far, high winds have plagued firefighters, with gusts in excess of 25-40 mph pushing the fire further each day.
As of Tuesday, the fire had moved out of the trees and into open prairie lands east of Cold Springs Road, headed toward the Cold Springs and Old Fort Fetterman Road.
The NFS currently has 10 hand crews, along with 15 engines, a helicopter rappel team, three type I helicopters, one type II and two type III helicopters, and two single-engine air attack planes helping to fight the blaze.
Bulldozers are also being used to cut fire lines to contain the fire.
This is the second thousand-plus acre fire to strike Medicine Bow this month. The other, the Cow Camp fire, lasted nine days south of Laramie Peak and consumed 2,000 man hours battling the blaze and 8,492 acres.
Below average rainfall, soaring temperatures and low relative humidity have already wreaked havoc on rural firefighters this summer, and the county is still two to three weeks away from the traditional start of fire season.
Countywide fire bans in Converse and Albany counties have been implemented and will be strictly enforced, officials said. They also are encouraging all residents to use caution when discarding cigarettes or the like, or while using equipment that could inadvertently cause a spark.
Specific fire ban restrictions include no open or outdoor fires throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, except gas and charcoal fires within enclosed grills.
The use of acetylene cutting torches and electric arc welders is restricted to cleared areas 10 feet in radius, as are propane or open fire branding activities.
Trash or refuse fires are allowed only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and only when they are attended and contained within containers with spark arresters. They must be located within a cleared area 10 feet in radius.
Controlled burns for range improvements will only be allowed with the written permission of the county fire warden.
The ban also prohibits the discharge of fireworks throughout the county.
This week’s forecast is calling for increasing temperatures near 100, with wind gust from 15-25 mph.
The status of the fire, along with additional photos and news coverage, will be posted as it is available on the Budget’s website at www.douglas-budget.com