Britania Fire Near Wheatland Grows to Over 19,000 Acres [VIDEO]
The Britania Fire near Wheatland continued to grow today to over 19,000 acres, as fire crews work to keep the growth to a minimum. So far the fire is 23 percent contained.
A voluntary evacuation remains in effect for the area north of Palmer Canyon Road, which the fire is approaching. Although the evacuation is voluntary, Public Information Officer Pat Kondas emphasizes that it is "highly recommended."
At least two "main structures" have been lost to the blaze, officials said Tuesday, with that number trending toward 10. A number of outbuildings have also been lost, though terrain and fire behavior have made it difficult for fire crews to confirm the exact number and location of those structures.
Due to the location of standing buildings in relation to the fire and weather conditions, officials expect that more buildings will be destroyed.
The evacuation for the Laramie Peak subdivision has been lifted, though returning residents must do so via the Fish Creek side, as the Palmer Canyon Road is still closed. Despite the evacuation having been lifted, residents should be prepared to leave the area within 30 minutes, should another evacuation become necessary.
The fire's northeastern edge is some four miles from the Laramie Peak Ranch subdivision, while the southeastern edge was last reported as being roughly a mile from Palmer Canyon Road, at the closest point.
The last official figure on the fire's size was 18,800 acres. However, fire officials at a public meeting in Wheatland on Tuesday told folks in attendance that the fire likely grew by roughly 2,000 acres over the course of the day.
Smoke from the fire was thick and largely remained over the blaze on Tuesday, which hindered both mapping efforts and aircrews' work from above.
A Type II incident management team has been requested and was arriving in Wheatland on Tuesday. That means additional resources to fight the blaze itself, as well as an increased likelihood of additional -- and potentially more frequent -- informational releases to media and the public, once that Type II team assumes management of the incident.
K2 Radio News’ Nick Learned is on the scene and he tells us roughly 200 firefighters are on hand now, and a large number of them are hand crews involved in direct attack on the blaze. The area of the fire is partly timbered, partly grassland, and the terrain is uneven which makes suppression difficult.
Most of the expansion has been to the south, both in Platte and Albany Counties. The fire straddles the county line.
Helicopters have been used to fight the fire from above with bucket drops. At this point, the fire is largely burning in timber, where retardant drops from fixed-wing tankers are less effective.
Firefighters from Florida arrived today as other departments and states share resources to fight the fires plaguing the west at the moment.
Fire officials said at Tuesday's public meeting that a season-ending event will likely be required to completely extinguish the fire. Containment of the blaze, however, may be possible in roughly two weeks. Officials described the firefighting effort as "long-term."
Even so, the public meeting at the Platte County Fairgrounds was punctuated by joking and laughter by area residents in attendance.
Several people in attendance asked how they could help firefighters -- whether it be through donations of food and supplies, or helping "schlep" those supplies up to the fire line.
However, officials asked people to stay away from the fire area for their own safety, and in order to reduce congestion as fire vehicles move back and forth. As for the donations, Kondas said the firefighters are "overwhelmed" with supplies, including food and water, and that no further donations are necessary at present.
Officials also addressed a rumor that had spread through social media this week. The officials said that there is no basis to the claim that Wheatland would have to be evacuated if the fire is not contained within a day or two. The fire, at its closest point, is some 16 miles to the west of Wheatland.
So while Wheatland residents can rest easy, Wednesday and Thursday are set to bring "red-flag" days to the fire area. That means weather conditions are ideal for rapid fire growth, making increasingly complex what is an already-challenging task for the men and women on the fire line.