ROCK SPRINGS — Usually, firefighters are doing everything they can to put fires out, however on Friday they were lighting a designated area on fire for training purposes.
Friday morning fire crews from Sweetwater County Fire District No. 1, the Sweetwater County Fire Department and the Bureau of Land Management were at Lagoon Drive, which is south of Highway 191, to conduct a prescribed burn on 18 acres.
District No. 1 Fire Chief Scott Kitchner said the land is owned by the Westside Water and Sewer District and they asked the department if they would burn it for them to cut down on the weeds and cattails that have overgrown the lagoon.
“We’re just doing it to help the out,” Kitchner said. “We’re utilizing this as a training opportunity.”
According to Kitchner, while all three departments work together to put fires out, they usually don’t get the opportunity to train together very often.
Usually when the agencies are coming together its to battle a fire in a real-life situation.
“We really don’t get the opportunity to do live trainings,” he said.
Both Sweetwater County fire crews were happy to have BLM firefighters to help with the fire. Kitchner said they have experience with prescribed fire burns.
Starting The Fire
Even though Wyoming is know for its wind, Friday morning was pretty calm, which is not what the firefighters needed to get the fire burning well.
The firefighters also noticed some of the lagoon had greened up since their last visit, which was making it harder for them to get a complete burn.
Sweetwater County Fire Department Mike Bournazian said they wanted to wait for the wind to pick up a little bit, but they were also on a time schedule to be out of there by 11 am or noon.
With this goal in mind, the team started setting fires by using torches to put on an accelerant and flares. Some of the flares were simple tossed into dry areas, while others were shot farther away with a Very pistol.
Some areas caught fire immediately, but then stopped as soon as the fire reached the green brush. Kitchner said the areas that are green have more moisture and that’s why they are harder to burn.
The firefighters continued to light fires and made their way down the lagoon working together to burn as much as they could.
At one point, the wind picked up just when the fire reached dried up cattails and it doubled in size within seconds. All of the crews moved quickly out of the smoke and away from the fire, however as quickly as the fire grew, it started to go out when it reached the green brush.
Kitchner said this would be considered a “dirty or patch burn” because it was just burning the areas of dried brush and leaving the green, wet areas alone. When a fire is really hot and the wind is blowing, it will burn everything in its path.
Even though the firefighters didn’t burn as much of the land as they would have liked, they glad the fire didn’t spread too fast.
All of the departments are used to working together, but it was nice for them to train together.
“We’ve got a really strong relationship,” Kitchner said.