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Fires ignited by Wednesday storm snuffed out in a hurry

Jul 13, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Several wildfires in Fremont County started by Wednesday afternoon's thunderstorms have been contained.

"Lightning struck basically everywhere," said Reid Wolcott, a meteorologist with the Riverton National Weather Service office. "We had several fires, but I believe they are all out."

Wolcott said the only new fire sparked by lightning Wednesday that remained burning as of Thursday is in Johnson County.

According to an animated graphic of where lightning struck, northern Fremont County near Dubois appeared to see several hits on Wednesday. Other local hot spots included the southern edge of the Owl Creek Mountains and along the western side of the Wind River Mountain Range.

Wolcott said two thunderstorms went through Fremont County on Wednesday. A system that ran along the Owl Creeks between Fremont and Hot Springs counties produced the strong winds in the area, including Riverton and Lander. Both communities also saw traces of rain.

"It didn't wet anything," Wolcott said about the moisture.

Lander's precipitation levels were slightly higher than Riverton's because of a second storm that flowed along the Wind River Mountain Range.

The highest wind speed recorded in Riverton was 32 mph, with wind gusts topping 61 mph. Lander was slightly calmer, with sustained wind speeds of 35 and the highest wind gust at 47 mph.

On Green Mountain near Jeffrey City, weather officials reported a wind speed of 65 mph.

Wind also roared on the Wind River Indian Reservation, with several areas reporting downed tree limbs. In Shoshoni, witnesses reported significant blowing dust from the 60-mph wind. Lysite also experienced wind speeds of 60 mph.

Local first responders did not report any major incidents due to Wednesday's storms.

"We did have officers go out at about 3:30 p.m. and check for downed power lines, but we did not have reports of any," Riverton police Capt. C.T. Smith said.

The Lander Police Department reported no significant damage from the storm. Lt. Chuck Carr said the only issues he was aware of were trash cans and yard signs that had blown out of residents' yards.

Fremont County firefighters were dispatched to a report about a smoke plume above Copper Mountain near Shoshoni, but Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam said the page was canceled after it was determined the fire was in Hot Springs County.

There was also a report of a small grass fire near Ethete, but lightning did not cause it.

Earlier in the week, several small fires started on the reservation that have all since been extinguished.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Forestry and Wildland Fire Management officer Bob Jones said the reservation was spared new fire starts Wednesday.

"The plan is that we are going to have people in the Owl Creek Mountains and the Wind River Mountains and the lower lands," Jones said Thursday.

Wolcott said the chance of thunderstorms will resume later Friday and through the weekend with a monsoonal surge coming from the southern desert areas of the country.

A chance of thunderstorms will continue Friday, with the possibility increasing on Saturday.

"Some of the storms may be quite strong and produce heavy rain," the weather service office's report noted.

A chance of mountain thunderstorms and isolated thunderstorms in areas will continue through next Wednesday.

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