Casper-Natrona Command Communications Center Responds to Sheep Herder Hill Fire on Casper Mountain
Rich Denison, K2 Radio News

Update 10:00 a.m. Monday - Fire officials say Natrona County Emergency Management has lifted pre-evacuation warnings for the rest of Casper Mountain. That notice had affected about 750 homes on Casper Mountain.

Fire information officer Andy Lyon says fire crews had a busy weekend containing the fire, dealing with dry conditions, low humidity and gusty winds. Firefighters will continue monitoring hot spots and eliminating dangerous trees.

Update 8:00 a.m. Monday - The cause of the Sheep Herder Hill fire on Casper Mountain remains under investigation. The fire began the afternoon of Sunday, September 9th, and has burned 15,556 acres. Fire crews established 100 percent containment of the fire late yesterday.

Some property owners were allowed into the fire zone on Sunday to view their homes and cabins. More property owners will have that opportunity today, as county emergency management officials are making efforts to enable those with homes and cabins into areas deemed safe.

A third community meeting will be held at 5:00 p.m. today in the Casper City Hall Council Chambers on David Street. Those unable to attend can view the meeting on the local access cable channel, or stream it live by CLICKING HERE.

All evacuation orders remain in effect.

Update 6:20 p.m. Sunday - As of 5:25 p.m. on Sunday, the Sheep Herder Hill fire is 100% contained.

While the fire is now contained, that does not mean it is extinguished, but fire crews have established a solid perimeter around the fire zone.

Flare-ups continue to occur in the interior of the fire area and may continue for some time. Fire officials say residents should remain vigilant.

Update 9:00 a.m. Sunday -The Sheep Herder Hill fire remains at 90% containment today. Officials say winds and high temperatures tested the fire lines Saturday, but the lines held, and there was no new fire growth outside the established fire lines. Smoke seen on the north face of Casper Mountain on Saturday was expected, and within the established perimeter. Fire Behavior Analyst Glen Lewis said “there’s still a lot of potential out there” for areas within the fire perimeter to ignite and for embers to be carried into unburned fuel. A cold front is expected to pass through the area this afternoon, which may produce wind gusts. Crews on the ground plan to work today on strengthening the fire line, removing dangerous trees, or “snags,” and improving protection around homes and cabins still threatened.

Management of the fire is being handed over today to a Type III incident management team. Dick Terry of the Wyoming State Forestry Division will become the incident commander this evening.

A third community meeting will be held Monday night at 5:00 p.m. in the council chambers of Casper City Hall on David Street to update everyone on the status of firefighting efforts. Road closures remain in effect for Circle Drive between Beartrap Meadow and Muddy Mountain and for East End Road, and all associated access road. Hat Six Road is open to residents only, and the BLM has closed Muddy Mountain Road.

Currently there are 275 personnel assigned to the fire, which started last Sunday afternoon. The fire has destroyed 37 homes, 23 outbuildings and damaged two homes. Officials say 853 homes and cabins are threatened by the fire. It covers an area of 15,556 acres in size, or nearly 25 square miles.

Update 6:00 p.m. Saturday - More progress Saturday on the Sheep Herder Hill fire, despite strong winds and a Red Flag Warning. The fire is now 90 percent contained, and remains at a size of 15,556 acres. Natrona County officials today escorted some property owners who lost buildings to visit their property. The area remains closed, and only those with proper authorization are allowed in the fire zone. Officials say 275 personnel are assigned to the Sheep Herder Hill fire which has been burning since Sunday afternoon. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Update 8:00 a.m. Saturday - The Sheep Herder Hill fire now covers an area of 15,556 acres, and continued to be 75 percent contained early Saturday morning. Fire crews have been aided this week by cooler temperatures and calm winds, but express concern about today’s forecast for warmer temperatures and strong winds.

A Red Flag warning is in effect, which means conditions exist for rapid growth of fire. Crews today are focusing on improving, holding and mopping up fire lines. Crews have also been assigned to protecting buildings in the fire zone. Officials say 325 personnel are assigned to the Sheep Herder Hill fire which has been burning since Sunday afternoon.

Update 5:00 p.m. Friday - Hard work by fire fighters atop Casper Mountain have resulted in more progress, as the “Sheep Herder Hill” fire is now 75 percent contained. The fire, which started Sunday afternoon on the south side of Casper Mountain, has consumed more than 14,300 acres, nearly 25 square miles. Thirty-seven homes have been destroyed, two damaged, and more than 100 outbuildings were also lost.  There have been no injuries or accidents. More than 300 fire fighters on the ground, aided by a large number of air-attack planes and helicopters have worked to keep the fire from growing and establish a solid perimeter.

Todd Pechoa, Incident Manager with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, said all the smoke seen today was within the established perimeter.  He cautioned that more smoke will be seen, and crews are doing their best to keep it within the fire lines.  Pechoa urged vigilance, since a “Red Flag Warning” will be in effect for the area Saturday, with high temperatures, strong winds and continued dry conditions.

The latest information came during a public meeting Friday at the Casper City Hall Council Chambers on David Street.

Update 12:00 p.m. Friday - The latest update from the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team overseeing the fight against the Sheep Herder Hill fire on Casper Mountain report the fire has not grown, and remains at 70 percent containment.  The cause of the fire, which was first reported Sunday afternoon, remains under investigation. Since it began, the fire has covered 15,493 acres, or about 24 square miles. Thirty-six homes were destroyed and two damaged.  More than 100 outbuildings were also destroyed.

Crews continue holding, improving and mopping up firelines, protecting buildings and assess the damage done by the fire. Anyone with property damaged or destroyed will be contacted by Natrona County officials. Fire officials still hope to reach 100 percent containment by 12:00 a.m. Saturday.  Containment means that crews have established a perimeter around the fire, which will likely continue to contain hotspots and small fires for a long time to come.

Update 8:00 a.m. Friday - The “Sheep Herder Hill” Fire on Casper Mountain remains at 70 percent containment this morning, with very little growth in the past 24 hours.  Officials estimate the fire covers an area of 15,493 acres, or about 24 square miles.  The federal management team overseeing the fire reports 330 personnel are assigned to the “Sheep Herder Hill” fire, and the smaller “Elkhorn” fire, which is 100 percent contained.

All evacuation notices and pre-evacuation notices are still in effect.  About 150 homes have been evacuated since the fire’s start on Sunday, and 750 homes are under the pre-evacuation notice, which means they have been told to be ready to move out, should the situation change.

Another community meeting is slated for tonight at 5:00 p.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers on David Street.  That meeting will be broadcast on Optimum channel 3 for those unable to attend in-person.

Update 7:00 p.m. Thursday - Fire officials now say the Sheepherder Hill fire is 70 percent contained after significant work on the fire's southern edge. Information officer Larry Helmerick says firefighters will focus on the northwest portion of the blaze Friday. Helmerick says the number of lost homes remains at 36, and no injuries or deaths have been reported. Firefighters still expect the fire to be fully contained by the weekend.

Update 1:00 p.m. Thursday - Fire crews continue work securing fire lines on the Sheep Herder Hill fire today, and still expect to have established a perimeter by 12:00 a.m. Saturday, at which the time the fire will be considered fully contained. At last report, containment is still at 50 percent, with 354 personnel assigned to the fire.

Evacuations are still in effect for about 150 homes, with another 750 remaining on advisory alert as of Thursday afternoon. The fire has destroyed 36 homes and 16 outbuildings, with one damaged.

Officials have been notifying residents who have had damage to their property and the process of assessing damage continues. Those with property in the fire zone can call Emergency Management at 307-251-9205 and leave a message with information on their property location and how they can be contacted.

Residents on Hat Six Road were allowed to return to their homes last night. The road is only open to those residents. Casper Mountain Road, Garden Creek Road and Circle Drive/Coal Mountain Road remain closed.

Update 10:30 a.m. Thursday - Officials with the federal team overseeing The “Sheep Herder Hill” fire on Casper Mountain say the blaze has burned 15,416 acres.  They had previously reported its size at 15,887, but say better mapping enabled them to more accurately define the fire’s acreage.

There are 354 personnel assigned to the fire, which remains at 50 percent containment. Officials say they see low growth potential for the fire today, but say crews are facing “extreme terrain difficulty.”

*Update 8:00 a.m. Thursday - No growth reported this morning with the “Sheep Herder Hill” fire on Casper Mountain. The fire, now 50 percent contained, remains at 15,887 acres, or roughly 24 square miles. Crews still expect 100 percent containment at 12:00 a.m. Saturday. That means an established perimeter will be finished by that time, but in no way means the fire has been extinguished. Evacuation orders remain in place for 150 people, and 750 have been put on notice to prepare for immediate evacuation, but last night residents living east of Hat Six Road were allowed to return to their homes.

A public meeting was held Wednesday night for those with questions about the fire. The city has archived video of that meeting, which is available for viewing on our website. In addition, another public meeting is scheduled for Friday at 5:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall on David Street in Casper. It will also be broadcast on the local cable public access channel.

*Update 6:00pm Wednesday - Officials report that the Sheep Herder Hill fire is now 50 percent contained, and that a total of 37 structures are confirmed to have been hit by fire.

*Update 3:00 p.m. Wednesday - Fire crews are working to combat potential growth of the Sheep Herder Hill fire on Casper Mountain this afternoon, which has produced a significant smoke plume. Officials with the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team says there’s no cause for alarm, as the smoke is from intentional back-burns, designed to reduce the fuel available to the main fire. Such burns are standard when attempting to establish a perimeter on a fire such as the one that has been burning since Sunday afternoon.

Area law enforcement agencies remind everyone to stay as far away from the fire as possible, and don’t stop along roads to take pictures, as it creates a traffic hazard.

*Update 11:50 a.m. Wednesday - There are some residents of Casper Mountain who may soon be able to see what, if any damage has been done to their property. Neil Kephart, a spokesman for the Sheep Herder Hill fire command center, says those with property on the mountain will be contacted by the Natrona County Sheriff’s office at some point, then be escorted into the fire zone. No one is being allowed in the area at this time, including those with property on the mountain.

Kephart urges people to stay away from the area, since even in areas now free of fire, there are many hazards still there, including downed power lines, obstructions, and damaged trees prone to falling. In addition, many people attempting to enter the area without authorization are hampering firefighting efforts, which is an offense that can result in citations and fines.

A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. in the Casper City Council Chambers at City Hall on David Street.

*Update 10:00 a.m. Wednesday - Containment of the "Sheep Herder Hill" fire is expected by Saturday at 12:00 a.m. The fire on Casper Mountain is currently 10 percent contained. Fire officials caution that "containment" of the fire does not mean it will be extinguished, simply that strong fire lines will be established around the perimeter of the fire by that time.  And that also depends on favorable weather conditions.  Fires within the established perimeter are likely to smolder for a very long time.

In addition, Natrona County Emergency Management chief Lt. Stewart Anderson said this morning that ground crews and airborne firefighting equipment continue to work today on extinguishing the "Elkhorn" fire, which is about 5 acres in size below Tower Road on the north face of Casper Mountain.  That second fire was started Monday night, and lightning is believed to have been what sparked that fire.

*Update 7:30 a.m. Wednesday - The latest news from officials overseeing the “Sheep Herder Hill” fire on Casper Mountain is that there was some growth, as the blaze now involves 15, 887 acres, an increase of about 600 acres since Tuesday. Containment remained at 10 percent early Wednesday morning, and the fire management team expects containment of the fire by 12:00 a.m., Saturday, September 15th. Forestry officials say the fire, which started Sunday afternoon, is in an area where there is a large amount of downed trees and beetle-killed timber.

Sheep Herder Hill Complex Map

A massive air attack is planned Wednesday, utilizing a DC-10 aircraft equipped to drop large amounts of retardant and slurry. In addition, Blackhawk helicopters, commercial helicopters and a variety of aircraft will be targeting the fire with slurry and water.

A public meeting will be held Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. in the Casper City Council Chambers on North David Street. For those unable to attend, the meeting will be broadcast on the local public access channel on cable TV.

*Update 7:00 p.m. Tuesday - The Sheep Herder Hill Fire on Casper Mountain is now 10 percent contained. Officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team held a briefing Tuesday evening at the new Incident Command Post at the Natrona County Fairgrounds.  They indicated that the fire's size has not grown, and remains at just over 15,000 acres, or 24 square miles.

Officials were optimistic on the progress made today, since many expected the fire to grow considerably. They credit an aggressive attack on the ground and in the air for keeping the fire in check, and making some headway in controlling it. A similar game plan is expected for Wednesday, with crews focusing on building and establishing fire lines on the perimeter of the fire, along with a continued strong presence of tanker planes and helicopters.

The second fire, ignited during the thunderstorm Monday evening, continues to burn, but is not currently growing.

*Update 2:00 p.m. Tuesday - Natrona County officials have released a new map showing the perimeter of the ‘Sheep Herder’ Fire, which at last report, was in excess of 15,000 acres. You can view the map on the Natrona County Website.

In addition, area residents have overwhelmed the Casper Fire Department with donations of water, Gatorade and snacks for crews battling the ‘Sheep Herder Hill’ fire. Officials with Natrona County Emergency Management say Casper Fire Station #3 has been inundated with donated items, and they’re asking everyone to postpone such donations at this time.

They recommend that anyone interested in contributing to the firefighting efforts make monetary donations to the Red Cross or Salvation Army.

*Update 12:30 p.m. Tuesday - Officials with Natrona County Emergency Management want to clarify where people should go in the event an evacuation order is issued for residents living along the face, or on top of Casper Mountain.  Should there be an evacuation, those displaced by the fire  the National Guard Armory on CY Ave will host the evacuees.  There have been 150 people evacuated since the fire began, and 750 have been advised to be prepared to leave, should the fire make a dramatic turn.

*Update 10:30 a.m. Tuesday - The Rocky Mountain Incident Team now managing the “Sheepherder Hill” fire on Casper Mountain says that in addition to the seven structures lost, 750 buildings, three commercial properties and 100 outbuildings are threatened by the fire. There are currently 150 people on mandatory evacuation, with another 750 on advisory alert of potential evacuation.

Aircraft equipped with infrared imaging equipment have overflown the fire to find hot-spots and other areas of concern.  According to those at Incident Command located at the Natrona County Fairgrounds, officials are most concerned about structures located on the west end of the fire.

A heavy air attack is planned for Tuesday, with Blackhawk helicopters from the Wyoming National Guard, light helicopters and a number of fire-attack airplanes.  There are also two twin-engine planes orbiting the fire, directing fire-bombers, ground teams, and observing any growth of the massive fire.

There are currently 229 people assigned to the fire, with more on the way. Efforts Tuesday will focus structure protection and line improvement on the west and northwest sides of the fire.

A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. at  the Casper City Council chambers.  That meeting will be broadcast on the local access cable television channel.

*Update 8:00 a.m. Tuesday - The “Sheep Herder Hill” fire on Casper Mountain is now estimated at 15,000 acres in size, according to Natrona County Emergency Manager Lt. Stewart Anderson. Fire officials describe the fire as “active,” with crowning and spotting. The Wyoming State Forestry Service said Tuesday morning that 150 homes and cabins are threatened by the fire, which will be managed by federal authorities.

Wyoming Smoke Plume

In addition, Lt. Anderson said there is considerable concern about a second small fire on the face of Casper Mountain near the Elk Creek drainage that is believed to have been sparked by lightning Monday. Anderson said the area is difficult to access by ground teams, and will be targeted by airborne firefighting units, including National Guard Blackhawk helicopters.

Bob Fawcett, spokesman for the local fire management team, said federal control of the fire will bring in additional resources, and federal funds through the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, Governor Matt Mead activated the Wyoming National Guard to provide assistance. Those with homes in the path of the flames are being evacuated to the Parkway Plaza Downtown Hotel. About 400 people have been evacuated since the fire started on Sunday afternoon. It’s cause remains under investigation.  According to fire officials, evacuees can contact the Red Cross for information at 307-262-1303

*Update* 8:20 p.m. Monday - The apparent lightening strike that started a second fire at the top of the Elk Horn Creek Drainage has not been accessed by firefighters on the ground.

Emergency Managment Coordinator, Stu Anderson, describes the area as just east of Beartrap Meadow on the North side of the Mountain.

"They are having difficulty accessing it. They, before dark, did get a helicopter up there and a couple of planes to drop some slurry and water on it. No crews have been in there."

Anderson says the federal Type II Incident managment team will be on the ground and ready to take over from local firefighters by 6pm Tuesday evening.

*Update* 6:45 p.m. Monday - Officials believe that lightning from the recent thunderstorm has started a new fire on the north face of Casper Mountain near Tower Road. Casper Fire/EMS asks that you to call 911 if you see and NEW fires.

*Update* 6:30 p.m. Monday - According to an Alert Message from Natrona County Emergency Management, a shift in winds is expected around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. It is because of this change in weather that residents are advised to be prepared for an evacuation at a moment's notice. The expected evacuation zone includes the entire top and face of Casper Mountain from Hat Six Road to Jackson Canyon Fire location.

*Update* 4:30 p.m. Monday - Officials advise everyone who lives on top of the mountain or on the face of the mountain to prepare for an immediate evacuation should should weather conditions cause a change in conditions. Bob Fawcett of Casper Fire/EMS urges everyone to "be prepared."

We are going to advise everyone who is on the face of the mountain or the top of the mountain, from the old burn at Jackson Canyon Fire to Hat Six Road, to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice. We have a storm front that is scheduled to come through with very erratic, high winds - up to 60 mile an hour gusts and if the wind shifts and changes and moves this fire back, we want people to be aware of that - that they need to get out.

In anticipation of the forthcoming thunderstorm, which is expected to yield wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, all air operations have been suspended, including dumps from the DC10 which arrived at Casper/Natrona County International Airport at about 3:30 Monday afternoon.

Due to the size and scope of the Sheep Herder Hill fire, local responders will be handing over control to federal agencies who are better equipped to handle the growing fire.

*Update* 12:45 p.m. Monday - According to Casper Fire/EMS Spokesperson Bob Fawcett, the Sheep Herder Hill fire atop Casper Mountain has now grown to 10,000 acres and "is still moving, it is still growing very rapidly."

All earlier evacuation orders are still in effect, but Fawcett has offered clarification regarding the specific scope of the evacuation.

"West of Hat 6 Road - more the people that are closer to the mountain to the west of Hat 6 Road, so people that are along second street in that area are okay - they're fine right now. The only advice is if the smoke starts getting heavy, they don't want to be in that smoke for long periods of time, so they probably aught to think about moving out of there for smoke conditions."

Officials estimate that roughly 400-500 residents are currently effected by the mandatory evacuation.

*Update* 11:45 a.m. Monday - Bob Fawcett of Casper Fire/EMS has confirmed that the Sheep Herder Hill Fire has jumped East End Road. This does not put any more structures in immediate danger, but does force a change of strategy for responders.

"East End Road was one of our boundaries… We now have to move our line back and reassess the situation"

According to Fawcett, there is no definitive number of structures lost, but he confirms that there have been structures lost to the fire and an ongoing evaluation will offer more detail once complete.

an evacuation order remains in effect for west of Hat 6 Road and south of Second Street. No eastern boundary has been given by officials.

*Update* 9:50 a.m. Monday - K2 Radio News has confirmer that evacuations have been ordered for west of Hat 6 Road and south of 2nd Street.

*Update* 9:00 a.m. Monday - According to the Incident Information System, the Sheep Herder Hill fire has grown to an estimated 5,500 acres. The Natrona County Emergency Management CodeRED system has also sent an alert for residents west of Hat 6 to be prepared for an evacuation, should  the need arise.

Listen to the CodeRED Update: 

*Update* 6:30 a.m. Monday - Casper Mountain is now a “no-fly” zone.  The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a Temporary Flight Restriction, or TFR near the Sheep Herder Hill Fire.  The TFR is designed to allow aerial tankers and helicopters clear airspace to battle the blaze on the mountain.  The flight restrictions cover a five-mile radius around the fire.

*Update* 6:00 a.m. Monday - More fire crews are expected to be battling the growing "Sheep Herder Hill" fire on Casper Mountain, as it's now classified a "Type III" incident.  Natrona County Fire District Chief Kevin Finn is the Incident Commander, managing several local, state and federal assets that are now on scene.  Homeland Security officials announced late Sunday night that federal funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been made available to help fight the growing blaze.  Natrona County Emergency Management Director Stew Anderson will provide an update live on AM 1030 K2 Radio with Brian Scott at 7:15 a.m.

*Update* 10:45 p.m. Sunday - The Casper Mountain Fire has been designated the “Sheep Herder Hill” fire.  According to the Wyoming State Forestry Division, the fire was reported around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, and has grown to 500 acres on the south side of Casper Mountain.  It’s fueled by lodgepole, ponderosa pine and brush.

Casper Mountain's Sheep Herder Hill Fire Smoke Plume Earth

About 150 homes, which involve about 400 people are being evacuated.  The residents are being evacuated to the Parkway Plaza Downtown Hotel.  Red Cross officials will provide more information to evacuees during a meeting planned for 9:00 a.m. Monday at the hotel.

*Update* 9:00 p.m. Sunday - Natrona County Emergency Management Coordinator, Lt. Stew Anderson, says the fire on Casper Mountain started in the Sheep Wagon Hill area off of circle Drive. Anderson says the fire is moving east off of Casper Mountain Road. East End Road, Crimson Dawn road and all the Camp grounds have been evacuated.  Anderson said at least one structure was destroyed, and several others are in the path of the fire.

Anderson said the fire is in the trees, and he described it as a “running fire” up in the crowns, which is sparking additional fires in advance of the main columns of flames.  According to Anderson, some of those spot fires were up to a half-mile in front of the main fire.

Anderson says there is no indication yet as to how the fire started. He says residents of the mountain who live in areas not affected by the evacuation order will be allowed to go home. The road is blocked at Beartrap Meadow, and no one but emergency personnel will be allowed past that point.

*Update* 8:30 p.m. Sunday - The Red Cross is setting up an evacuation center at the Parkway Plaza Hotel in Casper for those displaced by the Casper Mountain fire.  Anyone affected by the fire can call 237-8436 for information.  In addition, officials with the Red Cross are in need of volunteers, as in addition to providing services to evacuees, they are putting together meals for the fire crews battling the blaze.

*Update* 8:00 p.m. Sunday - K2 Radio's Karen Snyder spoke with Michelle Lipes, Assistant curator of the Crimson Dawn Museum on Casper Mountain.  She said large flames and heavy smoke preceded the evacuation by the Natrona County Sheriff's Office around 6:00 p.m. Sunday.  She said someone in a truck pulled up as they were being evacuated, and helped haul some of the artifacts in the museum to safety before the flames arrived.

*Update* 7:30 p.m. Sunday- Aerial assets have been brought in to help ground crews fight the growing fire on Casper Mountain.  Several air tankers and helicopters have been dropping retardant and water on the flames.

*Update* 7:00 p.m. Sunday - According to Casper firefighters, an evacuation order is in effect for Casper Mountain between Juniper Road and Crimson Dawn Road. These areas are being threatened by an approaching wildfire. WYO 252 (aka Garden Creek Road) Closed BOTH DIRECTIONS, between Casper Mountain Rd and Outer Drive, due to wildfire.

*Update*  6:30 p.m. Sunday - The Wyoming Department of Transportation reports Casper Mountain Road, south of Outer Drive is now closed.

Natrona County Fire Crews, assisted by a large contingent of firefighters from area departments, are battling a wind-driven fire on Casper Mountain.  Casper Fire Chief Mark Young said he's been in contact with emergency crews from the Natrona County Fire District and others that are on the mountain, and said they face  strong winds as the fire is burning in sage brush.

According to Chief Young, the fire is located on the south side of the mountain, on the southern side of the road past Beartrap Meadow.  No evacuations have been issued at this time, but several agencies are working together.

Officials urge residents to stay away from the area, as equipment from departments from all municipalities are being brought in, and there will be heavy emergency traffic in the area.  The Casper Fire Department has sent one unit to the scene, and is providing back-up to the various municipalities that have crews and equipment on the mountain.

Dispatchers have been flooded with calls, and officials say you should only call 911 in the event of an emergency.

Rich Denison, Kevin Koile, Karen Snyder, Brian Scott, Tom McCarthy and Anthony Pollreisz have contributed to this article.

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