STORY — With temperatures skyrocketing to the upper 80s and 90s this week, fire mitigation remains at the forefront of concern for residents of Story.
During a town hall meeting at the Story Volunteer Fire Department, Paul Wright informed a group of Story residents that the grant that funds the cost-share program ran out this year and Wright is still unsure whether Story will receive funding again this year. Wright spoke optimistically of the chance for renewed grant funding because of Story’s maintained FireWise USA status.
A group including members from the U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming State Forestry and Story homeowners utilized grant funding to create a fire break to help mitigate fires coming into Story.
In addition, grant funds helped establish a 50/50 cost share with the landowners, resulting in 244 acres cleaned up properly to mitigate fire fuels. In total, $266,000 was spent on those efforts through grant funding.
With no grant funding currently in place, Wright and Sheridan County Fire Warden Chris Thomas emphasized the need for landowners to take responsibility to prevent a fire.
“Really it’s up to you guys to take the initiative and do the things around your property and put yourself in a much better situation,” Wright said.
Story fire Chief Ken Damon emphasized those living in the middle of town should be vigilant in mitigation efforts, as that remains the most difficult area for firefighters to put out fires.
“I’ve been on the department for six years and we’ve put out four or five crown fires right in the middle of town,” Damon said. “Our biggest threat is a fire starting right in the middle of town and us not being able to get there.”
Wright said it is not about if a fire will come but when, and citizens need to be prepared. Because of the lack of a governing body in the area, an attending citizen said community groups are oftentimes the best way to get the word out regarding fire safety and evacuation.
Also because of the lack of government oversight, Sheridan County Sheriff Allen Thompson and the firefighters will help create an evacuation plan to help serve the needs of the community in case of an emergency, whether a fire, flood or other disaster. To be able to reach as many citizens as possible immediately, though, Thompson asked those in attendance to sign up for the Code Red system.
The Code Red system can be accessed through the Sheridan County website or Sheridan Police Department website. People input addresses and phone numbers through the Code Red system. Sheridan County dispatch then has access to notify members based on their addresses if there is an emergency in that area.
Thompson also asked residents to take care of their neighbors and help them sign up for Code Red or spread the word when an emergency does come through town. There are only two ways out of town — Wagon Box Road and Fish Hatchery Road — but Thompson said they will create a plan to help keep cars from bottlenecking in case of an emergency evacuation.
Until then, mitigation efforts will continue as fire season gets underway across the West.