SHERIDAN — As winter transitions to spring in Sheridan County, local fire districts are already looking to impending fire seasons and will provide a workshop to help mitigate any possible outbreaks at the end of the summer.

The local emergency planning committee will host a fuels mitigation workshop for land and cabin owners in Sheridan County to help reduce damages cause by large wildland fires in the area. 

The committee will provide the workshop for free, but space is limited and those interested must register online by Monday.

Keith Worley, an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist, forester and wildfire mitigation specialist based out of Perry Park, Colorado, will keynote the event. Worley helped craft 12 community wildfire protection plans and numerous forest management and wildfire mitigation plans throughout Colorado.

For two decades, former Sheridan County Fire Warden Bill Biastoch and others have been working to mitigate fuels in the Story area, which remains a high-impact area due to the forest urban interface landscape. Fire districts accessed grant funding to help alleviate costs associated with organized clean-up for landowners in the Story area.

While the big projects prove beneficial, county warden Chris Thomas said small efforts make a difference, too.

“I like what one person said: Little things mean a lot,” Thomas said. “There really are a lot of little things that folks can do around their properties. It isn’t all involving heavy equipment and major investment.”

Watering lawns, storing firewood away from buildings and keeping land free from excess brush and needles are small ways to make a big impact in fire efforts.

“If when we get a larger fire and we don’t have to commit as many resources protecting structures, that means we can commit those resources to corralling the fire and getting it out quicker,” Thomas said. “And a structure that’s well-protected doesn’t require a great lot of work, and if it’s done right, we come in and put out the little embers and move on.”

 The impact of a wildfire can come from the large walls of flames, but Thomas said the smallest embers sometimes cause the biggest issues. One ember can fall among a bed of dead needles and cause a huge flame to erupt. 

Thomas encouraged citizens to look beyond normal clean-up areas, too.

“I challenge (the community) to look beyond the obvious and find some places,” Thomas said. 

Much of Sheridan County remains prone to wildland and structure fires because of its close proximity to national forest lands and forest urban interface landscapes in Dayton and Story. With the fuels mitigation workshop and combined community efforts, though, Thomas believes Sheridan County will lessen the chance for a large fire outbreak this season.