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Casper Mount., Jackson-Area Fires Loom Over Homes

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The Sheep Herder Hill Fire (credit: CBS)

The Sheep Herder Hill Fire (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The toll from a wildfire south of Casper grew to seven homes destroyed and 750 threatened, while a fire south of Jackson kept hundreds of residents on edge and ready to evacuate in case flames advanced much closer toward the ski town.

Firefighters got help from the weather, though. Cooler temperatures and calmer winds bought time to put more people and equipment into action around the two fires.

“Humidity is up a bit,” Larry Helmerick, spokesman for the Sheep Herder Hill Fire command, said Tuesday. “But it’s still very rugged conditions and fuels are very dry, and that’s hindering our efforts to contain this thing.”

The Sheep Herder Hill Fire about eight miles south of Casper was the bigger of the two fires by far. Between the time it started Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning, it had burned almost 24 square miles.

Some 400 people remained evacuated from 150 homes on Casper Mountain.

wyoming wildfires Casper Mount., Jackson Area Fires Loom Over Homes

(credit: CBS)

Several of the evacuees were staying at the Parkway Plaza hotel in Casper. The American Red Cross was preparing to set up shelters at armories in Casper and Douglas, if necessary.

The fire also threatened three commercial properties.

For the first time, firefighters confirmed seven homes lost to the advancing flames. Homes surrounded the fire in all directions, which meant property was at risk no matter which way the fire spread.

“Just everything from a lean-to to a million-dollar home,” said David Lundahl, spokesman for Casper Fire-EMS.

Firefighters planned Tuesday to deploy more than a dozen aircraft against the fire. They included two large air tankers and seven helicopters. More than 200 firefighters and support personnel were on the scene.

“And more walking in the door almost as we speak. We’re going to have a bunch of resources on the fire,” Helmerick said.

Though firefighters got some help from the weather, they now had two fires to worry about in the Casper area. A second fire measuring less than 10 acres had started about a mile north of the main fire. The cause of both fires remained under investigation.

The Horsethief Canyon Fire south of Jackson has burned about 4 square miles since it started on Saturday. The fire is burning on a mountain ridge that overlooks Jackson and is within about 2 miles from the town.

About 1,000 of the 9,500 residents have been placed on notice of possible evacuation if the fire gets closer.

Besides working to protect the town itself, firefighters are concerned about protecting the main communications towers for the Jackson Hole Valley area, which includes the town. The towers are located on top of Snow King Mountain, which is about a half mile from the fire.

The towers on the mountain provide “most of the communication structure for Jackson, both from communication infrastructure for emergency responders, as well as phone service, cellphone service, internet service,” fire spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said. “That is one of the primary locations for that infrastructure and those towers. There are others in the valley, we have several, but that is one of the critical areas.”

Anzelmo-Sarles said weather conditions appeared to be favorable with winds generally pushing the fire away from the town and the communications towers.

More than 170 firefighters, aided by helicopters and tankers, are fighting the fire, which was about 10 percent contained.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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