Old Faithful Tourist Complex to Be Evacuated; Flames Threaten Towns
A huge fire Tuesday prompted an evacuation order for the Old Faithful tourist complex at Yellowstone National Park, and a wall of flames moved to within 600 yards of the town of Silver Gate and threatened Cooke City.
“We’re going to make every effort we can to save every structure and every home in these communities,” said Mike Warren, branch commander of the firefighting effort.
Facing sustained winds over 30 m.p.h., fire officials were pessimistic about holding back the unpredictable 61,300-acre Storm Creek fire, only 1 1/2 miles west of Silver Gate, the first town in the fire’s path.
“We have about a 25% chance of holding the fire out of these two communities,” said David Liebersbach, incident commander at Silver Gate.
Tuesday night, flames leaped from tree to tree a few hundred yards from Silver Gate after a 20-acre spot fire flared on a nearby hillside. Firefighters splashed buildings with water in a last-ditch effort to save the community.
Earlier Tuesday, authorities went door to door to order evacuations of Cooke City, three miles to the east.
About 75 fire trucks were stationed in the two towns, some from as far away as New York and California. The trucks were manned by 250 firefighters to protect buildings, in addition to 1,200 firefighters battling the fire itself.
The 500 to 600 visitors and non-essential employees near Yellowstone Park’s most popular attraction will be asked to leave by 9 a.m. MDT today for safety reasons and to allow firefighters the access they need to protect structures, said Yellowstone spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo.
“This is not a panic at all,” she said. “This will be a slow, orderly closure and evacuation . . . “
Thirteen major fires have burned roughly 1 million acres in Yellowstone and the surrounding national forests in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Inside the 2.2 million-acre park, 633,725 acres are charred.