A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Nincompoops and fire

Jul 9, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

They were frequent, willing partners during a ridiculous Fourth of July period

After what happened over the long Forth of July celebratory period in Fremont County, it seems a fair question whether our residents have forgotten the dangers of fire.

Many ignored those dangers in recent days, and it took something close to a continuous effort from local firefighters to stave off disaster on Independence Day.

On the Fourth of July alone, there were more than 60 emergency fire calls in Fremont County. That's approaching three every hour. One of them had a terrible ending; a family home in the Fort Washakie area was destroyed. Initial flames were started by fireworks. The spread consumed the home and yearly 14 acres of surrounding property.

Sensible behavior seems to take the day off on the Fourth of July. Bad things result. Mix a mood of revelry, a case of beer, a hot day, a dry field, and a box of fireworks, and you risk wearing out the fire siren.

The huge winter snowfall and wet spring, combined with the rampant invasion of non-native cheatgrass in everything from vacant lots to the open prairie have brought extremely dangerous fire conditions.

If you've never seen cheatgrass burn, you'll remember it after you do. There is nothing else quite like it in terms of fast ignition, intensity, and rapid advancement. This stuff catches fire before you can even react to a mishap, and the fire will spread 50 feet away in a few seconds -- even when winds are calm. And cheatgrass is everywhere now.

Remember, our local firefighters provide this service as volunteers. Independence Day is supposed to be a holiday for them too. They have homes. They have families. They want to have fun and relax. They need a day off, too.

Firefighters understand what they're volunteering for when they sign up, but this Fourth of July period was ridiculous. The fire managers we spoke to for our post-holiday coverage didn't come right out and say it, but you can bet they are thinking and talking privately about both a fire and fireworks ban if this dangerous and reckless behavior continues.

It is the height of irresponsibility to shoot a burning firework into dry field with the assumption that the fire department will just come and handle the situation while you go your merry way. It may well be criminal. Either way, it's intensely dangerous. Just ask the family displaced by the fireworks-caused fire last Tuesday.

Yes, it's a holiday, but that shouldn't mean a day off from common sense. Let's do better on this from here on out.

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