Wildfire chases WY residents from homes

BY PJ HELLER | JACKSON, WY | July 26, 2001

Volunteers help sort donations at Epworth United Methodist Church. (DNN photo by Heather Moyer)
Credit: Disaster News Network

Residents evacuated from their homes near this resort community were expected to be allowed to return to their homes for two hours early Thursday morning to gather up some of their belongings before being escorted out again by law enforcement officials, authorities said.

"For two hours we can escort residents back in individually to their homes and they can spend two hours in there and retrieve things and at 9 o'clock in the morning they have to be back out," said Teton County Sheriff Bob Zimmer.

Zimmer said a wind-whipped wildfire which forced hundreds of people to flee their homes Wednesday was expected to move even closer to the upscale Crescent-H and Indian Paintbrush subdivisions this morning. Homes in the area are valued at $500,000 and up.

"We had a tremendous flare-up today and we expect that tomorrow which could get very close to a subdivision," Zimmer said.

Temperatures Thursday were predicted to remain in the 80s with clear skies and winds of 20 to 30 mph. No rain is in the forecast.

The fire has charred more than 1,390 acres and was reported 10 percent contained. No homes have been damaged and no injuries were reported.

Air tankers were dropping retardant on the fire while 615 firefighters battled the blaze, which was burning six miles from the town of Jackson. The town was not threatened, authorities said.

Resources being used to fight the fire included nine helicopters, seven air tankers, 20 wildland fire engines, 10 structural protection engines and four bulldozers.

A road that was closed south of the small town of Wilson outside Jackson was reopened Wednesday.

A temporary shelter that can house up to 700 people was opened by the American Red Cross at the Jackson Hole High School. Zimmer said most of the evacuated residents likely found housing with friends. He said the shelter would stay open as long as needed.

About 175 homes in the two subdivisions were threatened since the fire flared on Sunday.

With few fires burning in the West, fire officials said they were able to marshal resources to battle the blaze near Jackson.

In eastern Washington state, a 9,300-acre wildfire which two weeks ago killed four firefighters was contained earlier this week. A memorial service for the firefighters who died fighting that fire in the northern Cascade range was held Tuesday.

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