Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Slow burn

Delayed fire season finally arrives


September 5, 2019

Surprising thought it may seem this close to cooler weather, Fire Warden Doug Leis would like the community to be aware that fire season may finally have arrived. Two small incidents last Wednesday afternoon could mark the beginning of a period during which plenty of fuel and dry conditions causes more fires to spark than the county has seen so far all year.

“I think our fire season is probably going to be starting about this time this year, if the conditions dry out from here,” Leis nods.

On Wednesday afternoon, county volunteers assisted by the Forest Service fought a 2.5 acre fire on Hadley’s property and a second small fire just off the interstate near Pine Ridge, he says.

“It was a lightning strike, probably from at least a couple of days before. It finally dried out and got hot enough that a tree got to burning,” he says of the fire on Hadley’s place.

Before last week’s two fires, the summer had been very quiet indeed.

“We had one previous fire way earlier in the year and it was a lightning strike on a tree over by Aladdin, and then about two weeks ago there were a couple of little fires on the side of interstate near Beulah,” he says.

“I’m sure that was probably caused by someone throwing something out of their car windows or something like that. It’s been pretty quiet this year, we’ve been lucky up to this point.”

But with frequent storms at night and the days still relatively hot, Leis warns that the conditions are becoming less than optimal to keep potential fires at bay.

“The grasses are drying more and more. A lot of it is that the days are shorter and the plants are shutting down and are going to start drying out,” he says.

“Our fire season could get active from here on out, it’s been pretty wet up to this point. We need to be very aware going into fall that the conditions are ripe for stuff to happen.”

Leis does not intend to invoke fire restrictions quite yet, though, he says.

“It’s pretty green yet, so we’re holding off on them to see how it goes. If we keep getting rain and with it as green as it is, it’s tough to put them on,” the fire warden explains.

The long interlude between fires has been fairly specific to northeast Wyoming, Leis says, which has experienced more rain than some parts of Wyoming.

“We’re a lot greener than a lot of other parts of the state – I was in Casper last Monday and Tuesday and it’s brown and dry down there,” he says.

“We’re very fortunate up here this year that we’ve got all this rain and it has stayed green and we didn’t get a lot of really hot days, just a handful of 90-degree days so far.”

All that could change in a hurry as we move into fall, however.

“Just because we haven’t had an active fire year, doesn’t mean it’s not right here with us. We could have it at any time,” he says, asking the community to “be aware and be cautious”, use common sense with your own fire activity and keep your eyes peeled for smoke.

But while the cool summer may have deceived some of us, the county’s firefighters have not been fooled.

“All of us in the fire service knew that, come fall, we could have our hands full. There’s a lot of fuel out here with all the rains and the growth,” Leis nods.

“We were just fortunate that every lightning storm we had this summer brought an inch of rain with it”


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