Published April 17, 2005
FORT WASHAKIE, Wyo. – A large wildfire bore down on this town of 250 on the Wind River Indian Reservation (search) on Sunday, burning a vacant building and prompting a full evacuation.
No injuries were reported.
The fire was at least five miles long along the banks of the Little Wind River (search), according to R.J. Shakespeare, chief medical officer with the Fort Washakie Fire Department.
"It's right on the inside of town," he said.
The burned building was the former Bureau of Indian Affairs (search) headquarters for the reservation, which has been vacant for several years. Other buildings in the BIA compound on the edge of town were unscathed, but much of the north end of town was shrouded in smoke.
All roads into Fort Washakie were closed, including U.S. 287. The fire went under the U.S. 287 bridge at the river, according to a witness, Ernie Over, of Lander.
Ivan Posey, chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, said the flames were being fueled by thick vegetation in the river bottom and 25-mph wind gusting to 35 mph.
"There's some old cottonwood trees, so I think some of that is pretty dry tinder," he said. "There's a lot of brush down there — a lot of brush and a lot of dry grass."
The evacuees included residents of Morning Star Manor nursing home, some of whom were wheeled out and put in ambulances and other vehicles, according to Over.
Evacuees were being taken in shuttle buses to a Red Cross shelter at Wind River High School in Ethete, about eight miles east of Fort Washakie. An ambulance was also standing by at the school.
Fire units responded from all over Fremont County, including Riverton and Lander, and a command center was set up at the Fort Washakie Fire Department.