SWEETWATER COUNTY — With the dry and hot conditions this year, Sweetwater County Fire Warden Mike Bournazian warns the community of the extreme fire danger this season.
“It is clearly a very dry year as Southwest Wyoming is in yet another drought cycle,” Bournazian said. “Wildfire Danger Ratings have already been in the ‘Very High’ category, which is early for us this time of year.”
Not only did the high fire ratings start early this year but Bournazian believes conditions will last for a while.
“Just ask any local rancher of how their water supplies are doing and what they’re seeing in their crops,” he said.
He said that there are several large fires already burning throughout the country, and resources to fight the fires and to support them are in short supply. Though this past week temperatures have been cooler, Bournazian said he believes the high temperatures and fire starts will pick back up soon.
“Sweetwater County has had an active fire season to start off June, and with the last few days of scattered rains, the fire starts have slowed. But with the upcoming increased temps and the Fourth of July, I am afraid we will be back to firefighting in no time,” Bournazian said.
Due to the high fire danger, Bournazian will be approaching the Sweetwater County Commissioners on Tuesday, July 6, about implementing fire restrictions within the county.
“Ultimately it is up to the Board of County Commissioners to decide if and when we go in and out of fire restrictions and at what level,” Bournazian said.
Bournazian said that he is one of several county fire warden who has weekly conversations with federal and state land managers about fire “conditions, concerns, available resources and short and long term weather patterns, as well as recent fire causes and how the fires are reacting with current conditions.”
He then relays all of that information to the County Commission to keep them up to date on local factors and conditions.
“While the recent rains have provided us some short term relief with the lighter fuels like grass and small brush, it will not do a lot to improve the moisture content of the sage, juniper and timber, I am afraid. Long term, talking weeks of consistent moisture, is what it would take to improve those larger fuel conditions,” Bournazian said.
Additionally, Bournazian said the Sweetwater County Fire Department works closely with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their staff on fire prevention and stays up to date with whether they may be going into fire restrictions.
BLM Wyoming announced earlier today on their Facebook page that fire restrictions are in effect on public lands administered by the BLM’s Cody, Lander and Worland field offices in Big Horn, Carbon, Fremont, Hot Springs, Natrona, Park, Sweetwater and Washakie counties. These restrictions are the result of hot, dry conditions and high fire danger, and were coordinated with their fellow wildfire cooperating agencies.
Fire Prevention and Safety
Bournazian said that residents and tourists have a responsibility to practice fire prevention and safety when enjoying lands in and around Sweetwater County.
“We all need to remind the public to be extremely cautious this year when it comes to fire safety and take it very seriously,” he said. “The public needs to be responsible and careful with all their activities this summer, especially those who will be doing their own fireworks. It only takes one fire to ruin somebody’s livelihood, property, home, or cause serious injury to themselves or others.”
Fireworks are only allowed on private lands with the land owner permission in Sweetwater County, outside city limits, he said. This means fireworks are banned on all public lands.
“Our county is so checker boarded with private and BLM lands, it makes it hard for the public to know sometimes as to which lands they are on,” Bournazian said.
If people do set off their own fireworks, Bournazian said they should have a fire extinguisher or garden hose and bucket with them. Additionally, they should stay away from dry grass and brush.
He said it is good practice to always have a fire extinguisher in all off-road vehicles and campers as well. When camping, people should ensure the camp fire is dead out.
“Pour water on it and stir it until it is cool. Watch others who are camping nearby and encourage them to do the same,” he said.
He also said everyone should check their town chains to ensure they are not dragging along the roadway and causing sparks.
“The citizens and tourists of Sweetwater County must adhere to every aspect of fire prevention and safety. We all need to do our part when enjoying our great outdoors in and around Sweetwater County,” Bournazian said. “It has been and is going to continue to be a long dry year for us.”