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Fire ban effectively snuffs out fireworks

Jun 30, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

On Friday, three Fremont County commissioners made an emergency vote by telephone to implement fire restrictions in the county.

"We will still have to take an official vote at our next meeting, which is July 3," board vice chairman Pat Hickerson said Saturday.

Commissioners who approved the ban were Hickerson, Dennis Christensen and chairman Doug Thompson.

According to the resolution, the commission finds there to be "an extreme danger of fire" throughout the county.

"There is a presence of an excessive amount of flammable materials and the high fire danger is aggravated by opening burning and the use of incendiary devices," the resolution states.

Hickerson said the restrictions go into effect at noon Monday, July 2. They ban open fire and fireworks on all unimproved state and private land including, but not limited to, all landowners in Fremont County or in which the county holds or owns as interest. This includes county roads, easements and right-of-ways. Unimproved land includes crops, agricultural land and undeveloped land that predominately remains in its natural forested or range conditions.

According to the resolution, the ban is subject to several exceptions including burning trash or refuse between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. inside containers equipped with a spark arrestor. Containers must be located within a cleared area.

Also, campfires contained within an established fire ring, or portable fire pits with screens or spark arrestor systems and charcoal fires within enclosed grills are permitted.

The ban does not restrict the use of acetylene cutting torches or electric arc welders provided the torches or welders are used within a cleared area.

Other exceptions are propane or open fire branding activities provided it's conducted within a cleared area; use of a chainsaw provided it has a spark arrestor; federal, state or local fire or law enforcement officers participating in fire, emergency and law enforcement activities; and public-sponsored fireworks displays that are coordinated by the county fire warden or his designee.

Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam said his agency has asked the Bills family in Lander not to have its annual fireworks display July 3.

The county's ban effectively shuts down the Bills' family fireworks show.

"We don't have a choice," Laural Bills said. "We can't do the show."

She said the only thing that could make it happen is rain.

"I can't say they made a bad decision," she said of the county's action.

While Bills is disappointed the show can't happen this year, she said, "We're so ready for next year."

County fire officials were already scheduled to present a partial fire ban at the commission's meeting at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.

"We know people like to celebrate the Fourth (of July) with fireworks, but we know it's not worth it right now," Haslam said. "We are short resources, and we're going to get stretched thin, and that's when bad things happen."

Those who violate the county's resolution are subject to a $100 fine.

More bans

With the early fire season and severe dry conditions, several agencies are implementing fire bans across lands in Fremont County.

As of Saturday morning, local areas where some fire restrictions are in place are the city of Lander, Shoshone National Forest, the Wind River Indian Reservation and some Wyoming Game and Fish Commission-owned lands.

Lander

On Friday during a special meeting, the Lander City Council approved a complete ban on fireworks within city limits for the Fourth of July holiday.

Historically, the council has lifted the ban for that day only.

The decision followed nearly two hours of discussion.

Before the vote, the Lander Rural Fire Department voluntarily canceled its July Fourth show, which was planned to happen at the rodeo grounds.

Shoshone National Forest

Beginning July 1 and until further notice, a partial fire ban is in effect in the Shoshone National Forest, which is above Lander in the Wind River Mountain Range.

Forest supervisor Joe Alexander said the restrictions are necessary to protect public health and safety as well as natural and cultural resources.

"The dry conditions we have now are expected to continue, making fuels that are already dry even worse," Alexander said in a news release.

The prohibitions include building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, barbecue or grill except in designated recreation sites.

The use of portable stoves, lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum, pressurized liquid fuel or a fully enclosed (sheepherder type) stove with a quarter-inch spark arrestor-type screen are permitted.

Smoking is not allowed except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

Chainsaw and welding usage is also restricted.

Although no major wildfires have broken out in the forest this year, firefighters were called to a small blaze Tuesday near Grannier Meadow south of Louis Lake. The cause remains under investigation.

Washakie District ranger Steve Schacht said his office has put out more than 75 unattended campfires along the Loop Road since Memorial Day.

"We are very concerned about this trend, especially when combined with the lack of moisture in the area," Schacht said.

Game and Fish areas

On Wednesday, Game and Fish officials banned open fires on all Game and Fish Commission-owned and administered lands in the Lander region.

The ban applies to Red Canyon, Ocean Lake, Whiskey Baskin, Table Mountain, Sand Mesa, Spence and Moriarty and Chain Lakes.

Prohibitions include building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal grill, coal or wood burning stove; and smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

Reservation

Fire restrictions went into effect Friday on the reservation.

Under the ban, campfires and open fires are forbidden, with the exception of petroleum-fueled stoves, grills and lanterns in areas that have been cleared of all vegetation for 3 feet on all sides.

Explosives, including targets that can explode, are also not permitted, nor are internal and external combustion engines such as chainsaws without a spark arrestor.

Other prohibitions are welding or operating an acetylene or torch with an open flame; any field, ditch debris or pile burning; fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices, including tracer ammunition; and sale and distribution and discharging of fireworks.

Exceptions to the ban are sweats, ceremonies, cooking fires and burn barrels.

The statement does not indicate how long the ban will be in effect.

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