SHERIDAN — Scorched lands scattered with the charred remains of livestock burned into the minds of ranchers following the devastating effects of wildland fires last summer in Montana.
As a primarily outdoor industry, agriculture and livestock owners rely on ideal conditions for business success. Those ag and livestock communities look to first responders to help when disaster strikes.
Emergency management entities in Sheridan County started in on mitigation plans following the finalization of rankings from the 2017 Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment in October. Emergency management coordinator Bruce Edwards took the first step in helping the community with a planned agriculture disaster training set to take place Dec. 7.
The training, conducted by Scott Cotton with the University of Wyoming Extension, will walk members of the agriculture community, stakeholders and first responders through emergency situations specific to preserving livestock. Those situations cover the agriculture elements of Sheridan County’s top identified hazard risks, including wildland fire, winter storms and flooding.
Edwards said this training provides a behind-the-scenes look and establishes strategic, tactical ways to combat emergency situations.
Edwards and Local Emergency Planning Committee chairman Steve Small led Sheridan County’s risk assessment with first responders, law enforcement agencies and city, town and school district leadership in October. The entities worked through a list of identified risks to determine probability, impact, warning time and duration.
Input from audience members helped establish each risk; Edwards recorded that information on the state website, where a formula calculated the rank of each risk. Wildland fires and lightning, which caused many local fires last season, tied at the top of the assessment list for high risks at a 3.7 out of 4.
Two significant wildland fires near the NX Bar Ranch and Leiter in and around Sheridan County this fall put livestock and agriculture land in the direct path of destruction.
Training will include how to effectively move livestock to safety in the event of a fire, flood or blizzard.
In addition to land training, Cotton needed a large commercial livestock hauler to show first responders how to react to trailers with complicated interior systems.
Wolf Creek Ranch will provide a hauler to use in demonstrations for first responders in the case of a potential overturned or jackknifed semi-trailer.
While training on how to load and unload a commercial stock trailer may serve as refresher course for livestock owners, the training will help law enforcement officers less familiar with the process.
“It’s just good to stay on the cutting edge of what you can do and how you need to go about it,” Sheridan County Commissioner Bob Rolston said.
Edwards plans to continue trainings specific to addressing the top risks identified in Sheridan County in the upcoming year. Besides keeping people updated on specific skillsets, Edwards said the trainings help satisfy an eligibility prerequisite for the Department of Homeland Security grant funds administered by the state office.
Due to specific training needs and limited resources, Edwards plans to network with emergency management counterparts around the state to help meet training needs in the community. Once Edwards establishes trainings, he will reach out to stakeholders associated with event dates and details.