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Fire limits take effect as state dries out

Jul 2, 2013 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

Partial restrictions take effect Tuesday for Medicine Bow National Forest.

Fremont County isn't part of the first round of fire restrictions being imposed around Wyoming this week, but it probably won't be long before it is.

Several weeks of warm, dry weather have led to the state's first widespread fire restrictions. Wyoming hasn't had any big wildfires so far this year.

Partial fire restrictions will take effect Tuesday for Medicine Bow National Forest in southeast Wyoming. The rules prohibit campfires outside designated, metal fire pits.

Similar restrictions take effect Wednesday for many parcels of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property in central and eastern Wyoming.

"These hot days with the wind that we've had have really started drying things out," state Forester Bill Crapser said. "The trend looks like it's going to continue."

Last year's fire season was among the most destructive on record in Wyoming. More than half a million acres burned.

Four major wildfires were burning in Wyoming at this time last year. The blazes included the massive Arapaho Fire that burned more than 150 square miles on the flanks of Laramie Peak northwest of Wheatland. Smoke from the fire blew southward through Cheyenne and on down the Front Range on Independence Day.

Wyoming has had only a few small fires this year.

Land managers reminded people that fireworks are prohibited on BLM and Forest Service lands. The new fire restrictions for Medicine Bow National Forest and the BLM's Casper Field Office also restrict smoking to areas clear of flammable debris.

Converse, Johnson and Platte counties enacted fire restrictions last month. Fire danger is rated between moderate and high throughout the state.

Scattered thunderstorms brought rain to some areas of southeast Wyoming over the weekend but only widespread, sustained rain will do much to lessen the wildfire risk at this point, Medicine Bow National Forest spokesman Larry Sandoval said.

"The fuels are so dry right now," he said. "Especially the larger fuels -- the trees."

Last year's fierce fires followed two summers with relatively few fires in Wyoming. This year, a series of April snow storms, followed by May showers, has helped the state remain more or less fire-free.

"In a normal fire season, we start having significant fires -- significant fires -- right around the Fourth of July. And then July and August are our big months for fires," he said.

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