SHERIDAN — Wyoming’s wet spring and early summer have kept the fire danger down, but that does not mean the state is in the clear.
Wyoming is currently below average for fire danger compared to past years. While the risk for fire danger is low, Anthony Schultz, Wyoming State Forestry Division fire management officer said, people still need to be aware of potential fire dangers around them. When camping, fires need to remain within the ring to keep them from spreading.
Schultz said low fire danger does not mean fires will not start, it means there is a lesser chance for one to become problematic. Fire danger levels can change quickly.
The Badger Creek fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest occurred at this time a year ago, even though there was early moisture. Two weeks without moisture and the fire danger level quickly increased.
The Medicine Bow National Forest has a lot of dead trees after being hit hard by pine beetles in the last decade. Dead trees create higher fire potential. The Bighorn Mountains were not hit as hard by pine beetles with only small pockets of the forest being effected said Jon Warder, U.S. Forrest Service fire management officer.
The Bighorns have seen a wet year like the rest of the state, and July will help dictate the rest of what this fire season will look like, said Kelly Norris, district five forester with WSFD. Norris said that if a fire would happen in the Bighorns, she would expect it to happen during September or October as fuels dry out.
Norris said the great basin side of the Bighorns is drier than the east side of the mountain range.
The wet summer and spring have allowed for grass to grow taller than in past years. The grass and shrubbery currently pose little threat to helping spread fires. Norris said once the grass dries out fire danger could increase.
With grass typically being the first vegetation to dry out across the state, low plains areas can expect fire danger to increase sooner than other areas. Schultz said this is typically areas east of the continental divide.
Another source of kindling for fires is downed trees. The wet year has saturated the ground, Norris said, allowing trees to be more susceptible to being blown over from high hinds. Powder River Pass along Highway16 experienced an extreme weather event in mid-June Norris said that led to trees falling.
This fallen timber will dry out and will pose future problems if a fire occurs. These areas will burn hotter than other areas of the fire. This changes how the fire is suppressed, Norris said.
Schultz said if you see a fire burning in the forest, call 911.