Fire threatens historic Yellowstone resort |

Fire threatens historic Yellowstone resort

Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

PAHASKA TEPEE, Wyo. (AP) ” Firefighters planned to step up their attack Friday on a 29-square-mile fire that was threatening a century-old lodge outside Yellowstone National Park.

Two specialized crews trained to work in rugged terrain were due to arrive early in the day.

Firefighting resources across the West have been stretched thin by dozens of major fires, limiting efforts to douse the Yellowstone blaze in recent days largely to just three helicopters dropping buckets of water.

Most ground crews have kept their distance and concentrated on setting up defensive sprinkler systems around the Pahaska Tepee Resort ” which includes a 1904 hunting lodge built by Buffalo Bill Cody ” and dozens of other cabins and lodges along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Many residents and vacationers have fled over worries the fire could flare up.

The shortage of resources, on top of dry conditions, wind and high concentrations of trees killed by a beetle infestation, allowed the Columbine fire to push within about 3 miles of Pahaska by Thursday night. Fire officials said they hoped to block it on Friday from spreading toward Crow Creek, a drainage that leads right into the resort.

“If that goes it will be hard to stop,” said fire information officer Jill Cobb. “Right now we need the more elite firefighters because of the terrain. We are not doing a lot of direct attack because it’s not safe.”

The two specialized crews, coming in from the Southwest, will each have 20 firefighters, Cobb said. She said four more helicopters also were on order and up to 100 additional firefighters were expected. The helicopters could take several days to arrive, she said.

The fire began Aug. 9 with a lightning strike inside Yellowstone. After expanding rapidly over the past week, the fire forced the closure of the park’s eastern entrance on Tuesday.

More than 3,000 visitors a day passed through the entrance last month. Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said it would remain closed until fire conditions improved.

At the Buffalo Bill lodge ” where the Western icon once entertained clients including the Prince of Monaco ” Byron Bennett, a firefighter from Meeteetse, said he was confident the lodge and surrounding cabins would be saved. But he said everything else could soon go.

“Any embers get in here, we’ll snuff them out,” Bennett said. “But we might as well get this over with and burn everything else through.”

Resort owner Angela Coe said fires have threatened numerous times in the past, most recently in 2003 when the East Fire approached along Crow Creek. But she said most of those were attacked more aggressively from the outset.

“This one has basically been a let-it-burn fire until the last day or so,” she said Thursday.

Bennett and others wrapped a heat-resistant foil around the base of the historic lodge, and set up sprinklers to soak the resort’s perimeter. Sprinklers also were set up at around approximately 15 other cabins and lodges along the North Fork of the Shoshone.

The weekend forecast called for a front to move through the region, bringing with it wind gusts of 25 to 30 miles per hour.

“That doesn’t bode well for our firefighting efforts,” Cobb said.

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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