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How To Live With Wildfires

Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team

A campaign led by the Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team is working to remind residents and tourists of things they can do to prepare for wildfires. The team is a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wyoming’s Forestry Division, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mark Wiles is a leader for the team. He says fire is part of a natural cycle. People can learn to live with fire, Wiles says, if they know how to make their homes and yards safe. The educational campaign includes instructions for clearing or reducing potential fire fuel around homes, which can help slow the spread of wildfires. Wiles says things like dead leaves and limbs left in the gutter and firewood stored within thirty feet of the home can act as flammable debris.

“A lot of people, in their minds, they think well, if we have a forest fire, then it’s going to be that massive fire front moving through that’s just going to wipe us out. But that’s not the case," Wiles said. "Usually, we have problems, when it comes to structure protection, with just embers that drift in the wind.”

Ember showers are particularly a problem when conditions are dry and windy, as they have been recently. Most of this summer's fires in Wyoming have been caused by dry conditions and lightning, but Wiles says it is not unusual for humans to cause fires.

“A lot of times as tourists are riding through, the scenery is so beautiful here, they tend to want to pull off on the side of the road and take some pictures, and that can be hazardous. You can set grass on fire under your vehicle and cause a wildfire.”

Wiles also says it is important to understand how to build a safe campfire. That means keeping the flame small and manageable, within a rock ring in an area that is free of debris that could ignite.

“Make sure that someone is with that campfire the entire time. If you’re planning on leaving your campsite, you need to make sure that fire is completely out, 100 percent. You can do that by pouring water on that fire, using a shovel to stir those coals, and then pouring more water on the fire. You should be able to put your hand in that bed of coal. It should be cool to the touch.”

For more information on making your home and yard safe, click here

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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