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Wildfire Rages in Southwest Wyoming

April 15, 2002

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OPAL, Wyo. (AP) _ A wildfire burned within the city limits of this small Wyoming town, forcing the temporary evacuation of its 102 residents.

Officials believe the fire may have been sparked by a passing freight train. The blaze burned about 150 acres and also prompted authorities to shut down a 46-mile section of a highway that passes through Opal.

``It was actually in city limits, but it did not involve any structures,″ Lincoln County Emergency Management Coordinator Christa Whitmore said. ``The fire chief is saying that it’s contained with a number of hot spots.″

No injuries were reported. The evacuation lasted about five hours, and the highway was closed for about two.

Whitmore said the fire resulted in some power outages as well.

``We are also out of power and don’t have any idea when that’s going to be restored,″ she said. ``We don’t know if lines were burned.″

Opal resident Alice Osborne said an area where the fire burned is especially dry this year.

``That is just tinder dry. Everything here is because of the drought,″ she said. ``It got into the brush and it got way out of hand.″

The peak of the wildfire season in Wyoming is usually mid-to-late summer. However, with the state entering a third year of drought, several small fires have already broken out this spring, heightening concern that firefighters could be in for a long year.

Opal is about 120 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

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