Ryan Fire public meeting held in Encampment

The Ryan Fire remained active through the evening Saturday, creating an ominous glow in the night sky. Photo: Jim O’Reilly/Bigfoot 99.

The critical factors that triggered the extreme behavior on the Ryan Fire this past weekend could redevelop, incident team members said at a public meeting in Encampment last night.

Meteorologist Shawn Jacobs said single digit humidity, temperatures ten degrees higher than normal and winds gusting to 40 miles an hour conspired to wake up the fire after several days of relative inactivity. Jacobs also said that the massive smoke plume visible across the region Saturday signaled that that fire was being stoked with ample supplies of oxygen.

Jacobs added that drought-like, below-normal precipitation in the mountains over the last year dried out the forests on both sides of the Wyoming-Colorado border.

Photo: USFS/InciWeb.

The commander of the incident team, Mark Hatcher, talked about the dual nature of the fuel load in the timbered area. During any fire event, the dead trees on the forest floor produce the bulk of the BTUs. Hatcher said the beetle-kill in the Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre has created at least five times the normal fuel load. At the same time, young, healthy trees act as a conduit to carry the flames long distances through their mid-and-high level canopies. The combination produces extreme fire behavior under the right weather conditions.

Those kinds of conditions raged all day Saturday and into the night. The fire never stopped advancing Saturday and ultimately reached Jerry Park where the first structures were destroyed. Carbon County Assistant Fire Warden Ron Brown said as the fire marched northward Saturday toward Wyoming 230, its active front was an impressive and scary two miles long at times.

Photo courtesy of Jay Franklin.

Commander Hatcher said two structures and ten outbuildings were lost at Jerry Park. Some of the outbuildings may have been unused remnants of dilapidated cabins or sheds. Over the next few days, prevailing winds should push the Ryan Fire toward the scar of the Beaver Creek Fire to the east. That should give firefighters an opportunity to develop and anchors and lines to stall any further advance. Weather remains a concern, though, said the weather forecaster for the team.

The Ryan Fire was first reported on Saturday September 14th in the Routt National Forest on the northern edge of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area. Commander Hatcher said the cause remains under investigation. Brush Creek Hayden District Ranger Jason Armbruster addressed the initial response that first weekend.

The fire reached a size of about 2-thousand acres in the initial 48-hours, forcing the closure of hunt areas in Wyoming and Colorado. Forest closures have remained in place and continued to expand with the fire’s growth. An interactive map of the closures is available on the web site dedicated to the incident. The Ryan Fire is listed at 21-thousand acres this morning. Containment stands the same as yesterday at 30 percent. About 250 firefighters are working to build lines ahead of this week’s changing weather conditions.



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Photo: Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99.

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