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Fire bans lifted after damp weather lowers risk

Sep 19, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Fire restrictions in place locally since July have been lifted.

Fremont County and the Bureau of Land Management in Lander both rescinded fire bans ordered during peak summer weather. The BLM lifted its fire ban Friday, and Fremont County followed suit during a commission meeting Tuesday, at the request of fire warden Craig Haslam.

"The moisture we've gotten, and the predicted moisture, puts us back in the normal to low range of fire activity, (so) it was just time," Haslam said in an interview Tuesday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Skrbac said a storm system is forecast to move into the area Wednesday evening and remain in place through at least Friday - and possibly through next Tuesday - bringing snow to elevations above 6,000 feet and cold rain to the valley floor.

Well-behaved

Haslam said he "felt really good" about lifting the ban this week, because residents "behaved themselves fairly well" while restrictions were in place this summer.

"We had a few people that didn't quite follow the rules, but for the most part everybody did, and we really appreciate that, (so) we felt we could ... let people do some of the things they needed to do," he said, adding, "It didn't seem right to keep it in place, especially with hunting season up."

Like Haslam, BLM Wind River/Bighorn Basin District assistant fire management officer Aaron Thompson commended land users for their cooperation and vigilance while restrictions were in place.

"Without your adherence to the fire restrictions, it's likely there would have been more fires," he said.

Thompson cited cooler temperatures as well as the increased moisture when announcing his agency's decision to lift fire restrictions Friday.

"Fire danger has decreased across the district," he said.

Safety

Despite the end of this year's fire ban, Haslam, Thompson and other officials warned that people should continue to practice safe burning practices, as fires still can get out of control in windy, dry conditions.

"Please remember as you're out recreating and hunting on public lands to never leave your campfire unattended," Thompson said, while Haslam cautioned residents to "pay attention to what they're doing."

"Check the weather and see what it's going to be doing," Haslam said.

During Tuesday's Fremont County Commission meeting, chairman Travis Becker said, "You can burn away, but please be safe," and Commissioner Larry Allen, who also serves as chief of Lysite's fire battalion, said that, even with continuing rain, there still are risks.

Fuels including grass and brush still are critically dry in the Wind River Basin, Skrbac said.

"Be cautious until we get some more significant rain," he said. "We'll reassess after we get this next event."

Weekend fires

Several fires were reported this weekend in Fremont County, including one that Haslam believed was caused by a power pole at about 4:30 p.m. Monday near Lysite.

The blaze "wasn't running by any means," but Haslam said it covered a couple of acres of grass that was "burning even with all the moisture we had."

"We definitely want people to be cautious, pay attention, and call it in if they're going to do any type of burn," he said. "Follow the rules, and check the weather (to) make sure it's not going to get warmer with wind. ...

"Wind will push it where you don't think things will normally burn. The wind will make it happen."

He noted that fire crews quickly extinguished the flames near Lysite, stopping the perimeter of the blaze from spreading before they "mopped up" in the inner portion of the site.

Another grass fire was reported at about 10:45 a.m. Sunday near Shoshoni, but Haslam said crews never located the fire.

At about 7:30 a.m. Saturday there was a "pretty minor" structure fire in the 900 block of Ethete Road, Haslam continued.

"They had some smoke in the house," he said. "We got it taken care of. There was no real property damage."

Crews are still monitoring the wildfire that ignited last week above Fort Washakie, but Haslam said no "resources" are at the scene, which is within Bureau of Indian Affairs jurisdiction.

"(They) send people up to check on it once in a while, and they'll continue to monitor it in case it does get warm," he said. "You never know when that lingering stuff might be in there."

Looking ahead

After this week's storm system passes through, Skrbac said Fremont County should experience a "high pressure ridge aloft" that will keep the weather dry for a while, with temperatures potentially climbing back into the 70s.

"We'll get some nice weather by the second half of next week," he said.

Regardless, the cold weather season is approaching, so Haslam advised residents to check their furnaces, stoves and chimneys to ensure they are clear for use during the winter.

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2017-10-20

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