Rain stalls fire threatening historic Yellowstone lodge


The first significant rain in weeks today slowed the advance of a 29-square-mile fire threatening a century-old hunting lodge built by Buffalo Bill Cody and other cabins outside Yellowstone National Park.

"Good news," said Terina Mullen, information officer for the Columbine fire, which began Aug. 9 following a lightning strike. She said one-tenth of an inch of rain had been recorded by early this morning. And with more rain falling, the fire's rapid advance toward the Pahaska Tepee Resort &

which includes the 1904 lodge built by Buffalo Bill &

had stalled.

"This is a reprieve. It will buy us a couple of days, but it's certainly not a (fire) season-ending event," Mullen said.

Two specialized crews trained to work in rugged terrain were due to arrive early in the day.

Firefighting resources across the West have been stretched thin by dozens of major fires, limiting efforts to douse the Yellowstone blaze in recent days largely to just three helicopters dropping buckets of water.

Most ground crews have kept their distance and concentrated on setting up defensive sprinkler systems around the Pahaska Tepee Resort and dozens of other cabins and lodges along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

Many residents and vacationers have fled over worries the fire could flare up.

The shortage of resources, on top of dry conditions, wind and high concentrations of trees killed by a beetle infestation, allowed the Columbine fire to push within about 2 to — miles of Pahaska by Thursday night. Fire officials said they hoped to block it today from spreading toward Crow Creek, a drainage that leads right into the resort.

"If that goes it will be hard to stop," said fire information officer Jill Cobb. "Right now we need the more elite firefighters because of the terrain. We are not doing a lot of direct attack because it's not safe."

The two specialized crews, coming in from the Southwest, will each have 20 firefighters, Cobb said. She said four more helicopters also were on order and up to 100 additional firefighters were expected. The helicopters could take several days to arrive, she said.

More than 3,000 visitors a day passed through the entrance last month. Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said it would remain closed until fire conditions improved.

At the Buffalo Bill lodge &

where the Western icon once entertained clients including the Prince of Monaco &

ron Bennett, a firefighter from Meeteetse, said he was confident the lodge and surrounding cabins would be saved. But he said everything else could soon go.

"Any embers get in here, we'll snuff them out," Bennett said. "But we might as well get this over with and burn everything else through."

Resort owner Angela Coe said fires have threatened numerous times in the past, most recently in 2003 when the East Fire approached along Crow Creek. But she said most of those were attacked more aggressively from the outset.

"This one has basically been a let-it-burn fire until the last day or so," she said Thursday.

Bennett and others wrapped a heat-resistant foil around the base of the historic lodge, and set up sprinklers to soak the resort's perimeter. Sprinklers also were set up at around approximately 15 other cabins and lodges along the North Fork of the Shoshone.

The weekend forecast called for a front to move through the region, bringing with it wind gusts of 25 to 30 miles per hour.

"That doesn't bode well for our firefighting efforts," Cobb said.

Share This Story