Firefighters aren’t taking any chances with wildfires as extremely dry conditions persist across Campbell County and the region.
That’s why they were able to contain and control a fire that burned 1,430 acres 35 miles north of Gillette in fewer than three days, Fire Chief Don Huber said Monday.
His department in cooperation with federal firefighting teams were able to call the fire 100 percent contained by 7 p.m. Sunday night. The fire started Friday afternoon.
“We’re getting on them fast and we’re hitting them hard,” he said. “We threw just about everything we had at it.”
The 11 units he sent to battle the blaze left plenty of firefighters to make up a crew in Gillette and fight a few other small wildfires that cropped up during the weekend. His department is tackling any wildfire with a strong and fast response, in hopes that no fires spread out of control.
In addition to local resources, federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management sent two airplanes and a helicopter that dropped water and fire retardant on the fire. They also sent about 70 firefighters in hand crews and three engines.
The fire was tough to control because it was in extremely rocky country that was tough if not impossible to access with fire trucks and graders. In some instances, firefighters had to let the fire burn into areas that were easier to access in order to stop it, Huber said.
“What we had to do is we had to let it burn out to where we could get at it,” he said.
When the fire was discovered Friday, it had burned about 200 acres. Strong winds and hot weather helped it grow. But a lull in the wind Saturday helped firefighters get ahead of the blaze and begin to contain it.
Thus far this summer there have only been a handful of significant fires in Campbell County despite favorable fire conditions. One burned more than 600 acres near Wright in June and the second was the Collins fire.
“I think it’s pretty much as dry as it’s going to be,” he said. “We’re dodging the bullet somehow.”
Integral in his department’s ability Huber estimated that of the 24 firefighters he had working the Collins fire, 20 of them were either seasonal workers of volunteers.
“We flooded it with resources,” he said.
The one wildfire reported Sunday was contained to 41 acres near Hoe Creek Road. It was started by a power line, according to a fire department report.