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Despite fire ban, 40- acre blaze ignited by weekend fireworks

Jul 18, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Repeated fire safety warnings haven't had an impact on some area residents, who continue to shoot off fireworks and leave campfires unattended despite hot, dry conditions in Fremont County.

"Obviously people aren't paying much attention," Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam said Tuesday.

On Monday alone, local firefighters responded to two calls involving irresponsible activity, including on by fireworks. No one was injured in either incident.

Abandoned campfire

The first was reported at 9:45 a.m. Monday, when an abandoned campfire was discovered above Bruce's Campground about nine miles southwest of Lander.

The campfire turned into a three-acre wildfire, officials said.

Forest Service crews initially responded to the scene with one type-six wild land fire engine and one initial attack hand crew as the fire continued to spread through grass with short-range spotting and single tree torching, according to a press release.

Eventually, officials requested additional resources, including two single-engine air tankers out of Riverton and a light helicopter from Casper.

"With the aid of the air resources, the firefighters on the ground quickly contained the fire," the press release states.

The FCFPD also responded with a crew staged in the Homestead Park subdivision as a precaution.

Fremont County and the Bureau of Land Management have implemented fire restrictions already this season, but the Forest Service has not, since most Forest Service land is at higher elevations where the air is cooler and the terrain is wetter, officials said. Regardless, Haslam said forest users still need to use caution when lighting camp fires, especially in lower-elevation locations.

"We're getting hotter and drier," he said. "People need to pay attention."

In its press release the Forest Service noted that the abandoned camp fire was "a short walk from the Popo Agie River," so whoever had lit the blaze easily could have doused it with water prior to leaving the area.

Visitors to the National Forest are reminded to never leave a campfire without making sure it is completely out.

"An action as simple as leaving a campfire's warm ashes or littering a still-smoldering cigarette can cause a fire on the landscape, (and) in July and August they can grow quickly," Wyoming Game and Fish Habitat and Access Branch chief Ray Bredehoft said in a separate press release Monday. "Remaining cautious with anything that has an open flame or can burn, including stoves, matches and lighters to name a few, is extremely important for Wyoming's habitat and wildlife."

To ensure a campfire is completely extinguished, campers need to have plenty of water on hand. To make sure a fire is out, allow wood to burn completely to ash, pour lots of water on the fire to drown all embers, pour water until the hissing sound stops, scrape sticks and logs to remove any embers, and stir the ashes and embers with a shovel until everything is wet and cold to the touch.

Fireworks

A resident on Hoot Owl Road north of Riverton called law enforcement at about 8:40 p.m. Monday to report that a field was on fire because "her kids were letting off fireworks."

Discharge of Class A, B and C fireworks have been banned on all state and private land in the county until further notice.

The Riverton Volunteer Fire Department responded for about 45 minutes and extinguished the blaze, which covered about 40 yards of sage brush and grass. No property damage was recorded. RVFD chief Cory Higgs did not know whether the property owner was cited for unlawful use of fireworks.

Rendezvous

Higgs said a couple of fires were ignited during the fireworks display Saturday evening as part of the Riverton Rendezvous, but they were quickly extinguished due to the presence of fire crews monitoring the scene.

"We were right there at the launching point," he said. "We were right on top of them and had them out in no time."

Higgs noted that a professional fireworks company set off the explosives.

The RVFD responded to several other grass fires over the weekend, including at 12:15 p.m. Saturday in the 1200 block of 17 Mile Road south of Riverton, at 8:20 p.m. Saturday in the All Nations neighborhood in Riverton, at 5:45 p.m. Sunday on Gas Hills Road east of Riverton, and at 4:15 p.m. Monday in the 1500 block of 17 Mile Road south of Riverton.

Midvale firefighters responded at about 1:50 p.m. Sunday to a grass fire in the 300 block of East Pavillion Road, and the FCFPD responded at about 1:35 p.m. Monday to a controlled burn on Dirt Road north of Riverton.

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2017-10-15

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