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JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service marshaled more forces against a fire that threatened 170 mountain homes for a third day Tuesday.

The fire was in the Mosquito Creek drainage of the Snake River Range. Owners of pricey homes to the east prepared for a possible evacuation by watering their roofs and stuffing vehicles with their valuables.

“We’ve got everything loaded and ready to go, so there’s nothing else you can do,” Ed Opley said.

Fire officials said they had 10 percent of the fire perimeter contained by bulldozed or natural fire breaks but wind gusts near 40 mph, much higher than expected, kept the situation volatile.

“This thing’s a sleeping giant,” fire incident commander Joe Carvelho told his crews.

As the fire grew to about 1,200 acres and crept to within one and a half miles of homes, officials reviewed plans to evacuate.

“We’re close,” said Tim Sexton, an incident commander-in-training. “We’re not there yet.”

One of the threatened homes is owned by attorney Gerry Spence, a famous television legal analyst known for his victory over nuclear giant Kerr-McGee in the Karen Silkwood whistleblower case.

American Red Cross National Director Dr. Bernadine Healy happened to be in Jackson to announce that all of the organization’s state chapters have been unified.

She said volunteers are ready should evacuations be ordered.

“Our disaster operations center in Washington, D.C., is on alert and we are prepared to send in national disaster workers,” she said.

The Forest Service has thrown its elite fire managers, 510 firefighters, 10 helicopters and four air tankers at the blaze, which has burned through 100-year-old dry, dense stands of lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and spruce six miles southwest of Jackson.

At least 280 firefighters arrived Tuesday and more were on the way.

The city was in no danger, nor was Wilson, a small hamlet five miles north of the flames.

Smoke billowed across Jackson Hole, a valley tucked between several mountain ranges, including the Grand Tetons, which were obscured at times Monday and Tuesday.

Some rural roads and trails adjacent to the fire were closed but all others remained open, along with all businesses, parks, forests and tourist sites.

The helicopters dropped water and the planes dumped chemical retardant on and east of the fire in an attempt to blunt its advance toward homes. Monday, the tankers made 38 drops totaling 90,000 gallons of retardant.

Fire trucks have had to share Wyoming 22 with thousands of summer tourists, workers commuting between Jackson and Driggs, Idaho, and many spectators.

The fire started Sunday from an unknown cause in a popular recreation area. It grew by 900 acres Monday and crept within two miles of the homes. It struck at the peak of the tourist season.

It did not appear to make as large a run on Tuesday, but an accurate acreage figure was not immediately available.

Called the Green Knoll Fire, the fire was the second-largest in the United States, after one near Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado which had burned 3,200 acres.

Jackson Hole is 40 miles long and 15 miles at its widest but narrows to a few miles at each end. Because of its pristine scenery, varied outdoor recreation and nearness to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, it is one of the fastest-growing areas of the West.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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