Wyoming Forestry Division Prepares for Fire Season
Nice weather yields nasty consequences from a firefighter's point of view.
"With springs like this, the good news is we have a lot of moisture, we have fewer early season fires and we have a lot of grass growing," Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser said.
"The bad news is we have a lot of grass growing, and when things dry off we have a lot more fuel out there," Crapser said.
The State Forestry Division is preparing for the summer wildland fire season, and it's predictably unpredictable.
Last year, Wyoming enjoyed a wet spring that ended in mid-May and was followed by hot dry weather, Crapser said. "In Wyoming, we're always six or seven days of hot dry windy weather away from a drought, and that weather changed everything really quickly."
On June 10, the Badger Creek Fire broke out in the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Some moisture arrived in mid-summer. But the weather turned dry in August leading to an active fire season that month and in September, he said.
About 1,000 fires started in the state in 2018, and federal, state and local crews were able to stop about 98% of them with early responses, Crapser said.
This year, little fire activity has been reported so far, but people still need to practice safety by putting out campfires, disposing of cigarettes in safe containers and not parking vehicles in high grass, Crapser said.
Speaking of grass, the highly flammable invasive cheat grass has turned red and has begun to cure, he added. "If we get a string of hot, dry days, we'll see an definite increase in fire activity."
Wildland firefighting is a team effort with federal, state and local resources, he said. The State Forestry Division works with county fire departments and the smokebusters firefighting team composed of inmates from the correctional facility in Newcastle, he said.
State and local firefighters received another tool last week with the delivery of its helitack helicopter -- a Bell 206L-4, Crapser said. The program has operated from the Duncan Ranch in Glenrock since 2004. It can survey and evaluate the fire, carries a small crew that can begin the initial attack. and can be fitted with a water bucket.
"It's role is small fires, initial attack," Crapser said.