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Large wildfire potential for the state forecasted as “normal” through July

A map of the United States forecasting significant wildland fire potential for the month of July. In the intermountain west, parts of Idaho, Utah and Colorado are colored red and forecasted for “above normal.” Meanwhile, all of Montana and Wyoming are colored white, signifying a “normal” forecast.
National Interagency Fire Center
The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting "normal" potential for large wildfires in Wyoming in July.

Federal fire forecasters are expecting another month of “normal” potential for large wildfires in the state for July. But conditions are drying out and heating up.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center’s July Outlook, eastern Wyoming is in a drought and that drought is expected to expand into the northern part of the state. The report also projects “above normal” summer temperatures in the months to come.

Jerod DeLay is the assistant state forester and fire management officer for the Wyoming State Forestry Division. He said the last few years of below average fire seasons means there’s a lot to burn this year.

“The way I look at it is, we're always two weeks away from fire season in Wyoming, between it being warm and the wind and everything. It doesn't take long for stuff to dry out,” he said.

DeLay said that although there was a slightly below average snowpack in most places across the state this winter, a cooler spring means most higher-elevation forests aren’t quite ready to burn just yet. But lower-elevation ponderosa pine forests, especially in northeast Wyoming, are ready to go.

“We had the Creek Fire up in northern Crook County a couple weeks ago. It was about 1,400 acres and it was mostly in the timber. So depending on where you're at and what elevation you are at, those timber fuels are available, especially at the lower elevations,” he said.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center’s outlook, the National Preparedness Level, which measures the availability of firefighting resources across the country to respond to new or growing burns, increased from one to three at the end of June. That’s on a scale of one to five, with five indicating many large, uncontrolled fires around the county with few resources available. Three means that national resources are starting to be used to address fires in extra-active regions.

On a state level, Fire Management Officer DeLay said that strain has just been coming in “little spurts” due to the fact that most fires have only been lasting a few days.

“The last couple days, where we've had a lot of lightning and limited moisture in areas around the state, we've seen an uptick in fire activity. But it’s kind of a short-lived strain on resources,” he said.

Jason Caughey is the fire chief withLaramie County Fire Authority in Laramie County. He said last year’s wet summer created a lot of growth in the area, which is now dry fuel waiting for a spark.

“We have this abundance of fuel, this dead and dry from last year. In addition with the lack of moisture early spring, we didn't get that traditional green-up that we usually see for much of the county,” he said.

Caughey encouraged folks to use common sense to limit fire risk during the Fourth of July. That includes lighting fireworks in a driveway or a place with limited vegetation, having water on hand that’s easy to move in case a spark catches, and using fireworks properly to avoid personal injury.

“Show some grace to our neighbors and make sure we're doing everything possible to limit the fire risk, so that if we have an accident on our property, we've taken the precautions so it doesn't impact our neighbors and their property,” he said.

Caughey added that Laramie County fire districts aren’t in a dire emergency when it comes to staff, but there are always opportunities for folks in the community to volunteer and help as hands on the ground.

“It's a great way to serve our communities and a great way to be a part of a team where you feel like you're making a difference,” he said.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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