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Wyoming sees tamer wildfire season in 2013

Sep 25, 2013 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

While neighboring states saw large wildfires this summer, Wyoming had a comparatively tame fire season due to timely rain, fewer dry lightning strikes and effective fire response, state forestry officials said Tuesday.

The number of fires and acreage burned this summer in Wyoming is still being tabulated, and more wildfires can start this fall, but this year's fire season in the state has been completely opposite from last year, which was among the most destructive on record.

"A lot of that is weather related," said Bill Haagenson, assistant state forester for forest management. "If you went up into Montana or Idaho, for example, they had quite few large fires. Those local weather patterns really played a role."

The Wyoming State Forestry Division said the cost of fighting fires on state and private land so far has totaled a preliminary $1.5 million. That compares to about $42 million for 2012.

The largest fire this summer burned about 25,000 acres, or 39 square miles, in the Shoshone National Forest. That would have been small in 2012, when one fire burned nearly 100,000 acres, or 156 square miles, and a total of 700,000 acres burned in Wyoming.

"Complete opposites from one season to the next," said Chris Fallbeck, assistant fire management officer, noting that more accurate numbers for this year's fire season won't be available until February.

Fallbeck said that some 650 fire personnel in Wyoming helped fight fires in 11 other states this summer.

Haagenson cautioned that while the summer fire season is over, wildfires are still possible, especially with hunters and others still active outdoors.

"It's the time of year when things are starting to dry out before we get the snows," he said.

While dry lightning is the biggest cause of wildfires during the summer, campfires are usually the main culprit in the fall, Haagenson said.

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