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Mullen Fire reaches 127,503 acres, casts ‘spot’ fire 3 miles south Thursday

Retardant drop on the Mullen Fire, (Jesse Stone, Inciweb)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Infrared assessments around midnight Thursday estimate that the Mullen Fire, now burning in Wyoming and northern Colorado, has burned 127,503 acres, according to the latest Rocky Mountain Area Blue Team Type II Incident Command team report at 9:00 am Friday.

It crossed the Wyoming/Colorado border Wednesday evening, driven south by continued northwesterly winds. On Thursday, a “spot fire” became establishes south of Colorado Highway 127, three miles south of the main body of the fire. The 10-acre spot fire “was quickly contained by crews on the ground with assistance from the Single Engine Air Tankers using retardant,” Incident Command said.

“Spot fires” occur when wind and active burning cast embers or burning debris that become established in fuels outside of the fire’s main perimeter.

Operations Section Trainee Deon Steinlee Planning said Friday morning that the “three-mile spot” was a good indication that the extreme activity could be expected in the fire’s southern portion Friday.

“Spread potential is high,” for at least the next 72 hours, Incident Command said Friday.

Mullen FIre perimeter around midnight , 10/1/2020 (U.S. Forest Service)

Steinlee said the 1,057 personnel now on the Mullen Fire are spread thin and revolving where needed in ongoing structure protection activities (installing sprinklers, removing nearby fuels) in Foxborough, Fox Park, Miller Lake, and other communities south along the Wyo-230 corridor to the Colorado border.

Rather than being assigned to one area, structure protection groups are now organized to mobilize where needed. Some firefighters come on later in the morning, maximizing the number of people working at the typical peak burning time in the afternoon, Incident Command said.

“This strategy also leaves personnel on the line during the evening hours when humidity is higher and it is possible to work closer to the perimeter,” said Incident Command, and said the Mullen Fire will have 24-hour coverage with the addition of a night shift Friday night.

Defensive burn operations are also continuing Friday.

“The firing operation on the southern end of the fire along CO 127 from the WY state line south to the junction with CO 125 will continue Friday,” Friday’s update said.

“The objective of this operation is to remove vegetation from in front of the fire to slow or limit fire spread. Firing operations south of Albany followed the 542 Road and pipeline and should be complete in the next few days if conditions allow. This protects communities on the north end in the event of a wind shift from the southwest.”

A red flag warning is in effect for part of the area and the southeast portion of Wyoming Friday until 8:00 p.m, according to the National Weather Service. Northwesterly winds are expected to shift to the north late afternoon, with 25-30 mph winds and higher gusts expected. A cold front is expected to pass through the area Friday night, according to Incident Command.