Green River Fire Burns 90 Acres; City Reminds Dry Conditions Add to Fire Danger

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A fire in Green River burned 90 acres before the flames were extinguished. Photo contributed by Sarah Huber.

GREEN RIVER — Tuesday July 30, 2019, a fire south of Green River near the closed landfill burned over 90 acres. The Green River Fire Department (GRFD) responded to the fire Tuesday morning and, with the help of several other local agencies, was able to contain the fire as it spread south east towards the Flaming Gorge. 

According to Green River Assistant Fire Chief, Bill Robinson, there were 15 trucks and over 40 firefighters from local agencies that help put out the fire. Other agencies that responded, along with the GRFD, included Sweetwater County Fire Department, Granger Fire Department, Rock Springs Bureau of Land Management fire crews, and Rock Springs Fire Department. The origin of cause of the fire is still being investigated. All agencies would like to highlight the public safety issues and precautions to take as we head into the driest and hottest time of the year. 

Even those who take extreme caution know that a fire can start instantly and be out of control quickly based on conditions.  Grass is one of the major fuels we have locally. Grass fires are dangerous because they move quickly and grasses act as ladder fuels, igniting larger and more volatile vegetation such as sage brush and cedars. Cheatgrass is a highly volatile grass this time of year. It grows early in the season and can produce more than 10,000 plants per square yard. It turns brown and dies by early summer leaving behind thick, continuous dry fuels and creating extreme wildfire hazards. Though several components can affect flame length and fire spread, a typical cheatgrass fire on flat terrain with wind speeds of 20 miles per hour may generate flame lengths up to eight feet in height and allow the fire to travel more than four miles per hour. Due to these readily combustible characteristics it is critical for those who live, play, or work in “cheatgrass country” to take precautions not to ignite it. Keep in mind the following fire prevention tips:

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  • Keep vehicles on well-maintained roads at all times. Avoid driving or parking vehicles in tall, dry grass.  Fires can ignite as a result of hot car exhaust systems coming in contact with tall, dry fuels.
  • Make sure all mechanical outdoor equipment (tractors, chainsaws, off-road vehicles, etc.) are equipped with properly-working mufflers, spark arresters, and bearings.
  • Make sure safety chains on trailers or other equipment do not drag, thus causing sparks.
  • If campfires are allowed, build them on bare ground in contained or designated areas and make sure campfires are out completely before you leave.
  • Dispose of smoking materials properly. In a vehicle use the ashtray. Outside, crush smoking materials and matches dead on ground that is bare 3 feet or more in diameter.
  • During hunting season or target practice, be aware of fires that may ignite due to stray bullets hitting solid objects and thus creating sparks.
  • Use extreme caution when using exploding targets for practice. While not all binary targets are flammable, some may be formulated to produce flames upon detonation. Even a non-incendiary explosion involves a certain amount of heat. A sufficient amount of heat in the right conditions can easily spark dry grasses and other media, creating a fire.
  • Never use an exploding target in a high-risk area or during the hot, dry periods of the year. Definitely do not use them in prohibited areas such as US Forest Service or BLM lands that ban the use of such targets.
  • Know when and where to use fireworks and follow these designations strictly. Instruct children to never play with fire or fireworks.
  • Have a fire extinguisher available.

The City of Green River would like to thank the agencies and their personnel who helped to quickly control and distinguish the fire.  In addition to the responding fire crews, assistance was given by the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, the Green River Police Department, and the JCCC (Dispatch Center). Resources verify all the hot spots were eliminated last night and again this morning. If you have any questions about fire safety or what is allowed based on the fire danger levels, contact your local fire department, the US Forest Service, and your local BLM office.