The warnings are coming ominously early.
From the Bureau of Land Management in an announcement Monday: “The BLM Wind River/Big Horn Basin District is warning the public that the fire danger rating throughout the (district) is extreme and urges caution for those recreating on public lands.”
From the Wyoming State Forestry Division: “Fuel conditions heavy with lingering dead and standing fuels and below normal snowpack has created a heavy and continuous fuel bed.”
From the Bighorn National Forest: The fire danger this week is “Very High” and campers are urged to be cautious with fire, although there are no fire restrictions – yet.
From Big Horn County Fire Warden Brent Godfrey: “At this time we are not issuing a fire ban but asking residents to be extremely careful.” Godfrey noted that extremely dry conditions exist in the Big Horn Basin.
From the National Weather Service in Riverton: This week brings “critical fire weather conditions.”
And it’s only June.
That was the point made Tuesday by Lovell Fire Chief Jim Minchow and Captain Bob Mangus during a conversation at the Lovell Fire Hall. The two said the Lovell Volunteer Fire Department is bracing for an early and active fire season in the Big Horn Mountains and lands in the Big Horn Basin thanks to recent 100-degree temperatures, windy conditions and a lack of rain.
It could be a long two or three months ahead. Already, New Mexico and Colorado have experienced massive fires, and Wyoming is experiencing smoke-filled skies from large fires burning in the Medicine Bow and the Bridger-Teton National Forests and other smaller fires burning in the state, including a small fire in the Meadowlark Lake area near Ten Sleep.
Another reason officials are nervous is that it is Fourth of July week. Some folks get kind of crazy with fireworks, and while fireworks are not allowed on public land, they are allowed on private land and, on the Fourth only, within the Lovell town limits.
Just Monday night, firemen were called to a brush fire ignited by fireworks near town, but luckily the fire was extinguished quickly, even before firemen arrived.
We urge people to be extremely cautious with fireworks this year over the next few days and exceedingly careful while camping this summer. Watch campfires closely, never leave a fire unattended and thoroughly douse the fire with water before leaving the site.
Wyoming’s clear, blue skies and star-filled nights are wonderful, but weeks of clear skies bereft of rain is rapidly creating a tinderbox. Let’s all be careful while enjoying Big Wyoming this summer.