Tuesday notesSep 18, 2012 By Steven R. Peck
"Areas of smoke," says the weather forecast. One of those "areas" is the Wind River Basin, at least from the Midvale area to the mountains. We've had smoke intermittently all season, but it's been markedly different over the past few days as the Alpine Lake Fire grows. The blaze really blew up over the weekend and now threatens to top the 50,000-acre mark.
That's a big fire by any standard -- and again serves as a reminder of the staggering proportions reached by the Yellowstone National Park fire complex in 1988. In case you've forgotten, that fire reached 1 million acres.
Few forest fires in recorded history will ever match that great blaze in and around Yellowstone 24 summers ago, but the fires now flaming near Casper and Jackson are providing some of the most spectacular Wyoming fire pictures we've seen since then with their stark contrasts between streets, cars, houses and fire. Thanks to all the alert and creative photographers who have helped us show some of these images to our readers -- and we'll all keep our fingers crossed that the pictures from the Alpine Lake Fire stay decidedly rural.
Money and votes
Political campaigns at the national level are increasingly negative and mean-spirited, some say incurably so. But a bit of encouraging news appeared last week, when a nationwide poll showed strong majority support across the United States for reasonable limits on campaign spending and contributions. Other than the billionaire donors themselves, few would argue that unlimited, and often anonymous, campaign contributions from outside benefactors are skewing, and perhaps ruining, the election picture for voters.
Money is a powerful tool, and a useful one, in a political campaign. It can turn a nobody into a contender, and ensure that different voices are heard during the election process. This is complicated territory, and money always will be an important factor in any election, if for no other reason than rich candidates such as Mitt Romney and Ross Perot will continue to run for office and will be allowed to pour as much of their own personal fortunes into their campaigns as they like.
But given the strong public support for doing it a different way in terms of outside contributions, a re-examination of the campaign finance rules, with an eye toward making it less likely that candidates can simply buy their offices -- or have the office bought for them -- would seem to be in order before 2016.
Fremont County has been unsettled by two homicides in a week's time, one in Lander and one in Riverton. The idea of a premeditated act of murder being planned and committed in our midst can be unnerving. If there is any reassurance to be had, it could come from the knowledge that each of these crimes was, apparently, an isolated act, not a rampage, and that the suspects are in custody, with strong cases against them and little chance of either being released.
There's good news from Wolverine Field at Riverton High School. The new concession stand and restroom complex is ready to go, and Fremont County School District 25 leaders say the facility will have its public unveiling this Friday, Sept. 21, when the Riverton Wolverines host the Rawlins Outlaws on the football field.
The new flagpole also is standing, so the national anthem can be sung to an actual flag rather than a scoreboard video.
Additional improvements to the new section of spectator seating will be in place Friday in the form of new seatbacks intended to make the seats a bit more comfortable and warmer, although we'll all hope that particular factor won't be so important this weekend. Kickoff temperature is forecast to be in the low 60s, cooling to the 50s during the game.
Friday's game also is Riverton's night to raise money for cancer treatment, research and family assistance during the football season in conjunction with the successful Tough Enough to Wear Pink program. New RHS activities director Jeremy Hill tells more about that in a column elsewhere on this page.
Earlier this month we posed three weather-related questions as a friendly wager. Will there be another 90-degree day this year? Will there be an 80-degree day in October? And will we have measurable snow by Halloween?
Out answers were no, yes and yes.
Each passing day makes the 90-degree barrier less likely, but it's not impossible. There have been three 90-degree days in Riverton's history after the first day of fall. The latest was Oct. 1, 1980, when the official high temperature was 90 degrees.
Snow, not ash
As for the third weather question, it's measurable snow that counts, not ash from the Alpine Lake Fire -- although there were times over the weekend that it was hard to see the difference.
Here's to a good week.