Jackson Hole News & Guide, Mike Koshmrl- Less than 48 hours after the Berry Fire made a scary 6-mile run, crossing a highway and surrounding Flagg Ranch, a turn in the weather had firefighters breathing easy — or easier, at least.
The road to the Yellowstone National Park South Gate opened early Tuesday afternoon, and fire managers made the call the same day to lift a large area closure that surrounded the 53-square-mile Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant.
“The fire activity definitely moderated and decreased yesterday with the cooler temperatures,” Berry Fire information officer Tim Engrav said. “The rain overnight definitely helped.”
Crews combating the 33-square-mile Berry Fire, commanding more than 200 personnel, have put most of their energy toward clearing hazardous burned “snag” trees abutting Highway 89/191/287 and on the outskirts of Flagg Ranch.
Berry Fire managers will take a long look today at their status and come up with a longer-term strategy, Engrav said. Weather in the overnight hours leading into Tuesday prevented an aerial assessment.
“The fire’s not out,” Engrav said, “and that run on Sunday definitely created some additional fire line.”
From its July 25 lightning-sparked origin on the west shore of Jackson Lake, the blaze has spotted all the way north to within the perimeter of Yellowstone National Park.
Driven by sustained winds of over 30 miles per hour, the run blew the Berry Fire about 6 miles in six hours, tacking on around 6,000 acres of burned area, Bridger-Teton National Forest Fire Management Officer Steve Markason told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
An arm of the fire’s leading front hit Flagg Ranch Sunday at sundown.
“Basically, it hit hard at Flagg,” said Markason, the Berry Fire’s incident commander. “Really, there was fire all around. It burned throughout the whole Flagg Ranch, all over. It burned everything.”
No structures were lost, even though in places the blaze made it into the Flagg Ranch’s developed area.
The change of weather has the wildfire forecast looking up in the days ahead, Bridger-Teton Fire Specialist Andy Norman said.
“The next three days are supposed to be cool, with a few showers,” Norman said. “Long term, they’re saying by next week it’s supposed to dry out again. But the days are shorter and the precipitation that we’ve gotten has been very, very beneficial.”
Campfire restrictions have been lifted in portions of northwest Wyoming, including on the Shoshone National Forest. The prohibition against dispersed campfires lifted in Yellowstone National Park at noon on Tuesday.
Within Teton Interagency Fire’s district — including Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest — restrictions remain in effect, although wildfire managers are mulling a change.
“If the weather holds, we’ll look pretty seriously at lifting restrictions,” Norman said. “It hasn’t been decided.”