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Fire-risky behavior

Jun 27, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

When the danger is at a high point, consider a change of plans

Fremont County and the surrounding area got a nice reprieve earlier this month from the sort of early-onset wildfire dangers that were evident a year ago.

But the honeymoon is over. Fire danger is high and getting higher.

Setting aside the counterproductive political arguments about why fire danger arrives in force so much earlier in the summer now than it did a generation ago, everyone must accept the circumstances as they are.

In late June, our weather has warmed, our winds have picked up, the sun shines for more hours in the day than at any other time of year, and vegetation that sprouted vigorously thanks to the spurt of moisture in early May now is drying out rapidly. News from neighboring states confirms that fire conditions are right. A month from now, it will be even worse.

If fire bans and/or restrictions have not been imposed yet, they soon will be. The short-term hope is that we can get through the Fourth of July weekend and its accompanying fireworks, cookouts, campouts and mountain automobile excursions without igniting a catastrophic blaze.

When fire danger does climb, and when restrictions, warnings and advisories are put into place, a simple and straightforward piece of advice doesn't seem to be given very often.

So we will give it: When the fire danger is high, consider staying home.

We love outdoor experiences in our beautiful state. But there is no law which requires us to head for the hills on a summer day when conditions for the combustion of a huge wildfire are nearing perfection. In these cases, an argument could be made that one of the best things we human beings could do to reduce the likelihood of 100,000-acre wildfire, would be to stay out of the high-risk zones.

We all know that many of the worst fires are ignited in a way that has nothing to do with recreational users of our wild land. Lightning is the major culprit, aided by prevailing wind, bark beetles, and typically dry Wyoming weather. We humans are by no means the only contributors to wildfire risk.

There is nothing we can do about any of those other conditions, so we might want to think about the things that we can help control. Consider delaying the trip, shortening the trip, or using a different destination so as to lessen the chance of a human-caused fire.

Outdoor recreation is a cherished part of life in Wyoming, and it is an important factor in our economy as well. That won't change, nor should it. What could change is the determination of some people to engage in fire-risky behaviors at the peak of fire season.

If you know that fire risk is high on the weekend that you want to get away from it all, and if the destination you have chosen is in a place where fire danger is clearly demonstrated, then think about a temporary change of plan.

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