‘Preparing for wildfire’ sessions set in Ten Sleep, Worland

BLM firefighters on the recent Hidden Dome fire in Washakie County. (Photo: James Yule)

Heavy fuel loads and dry conditions in the Big Horn Basin have prompted two preparing for wildfire sessions for rural homeowners.

The sessions are 6 p.m. Friday, July 28, at the Ten Sleep Community Center, and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, at the Washakie County Fairgrounds in Worland.

University of Wyoming Extension educator Caitlin Youngquist is collaborating with Karen Fenton of the Washakie County Conservation District to help landowners develop evacuation plans for livestock and pets and provide information to create defensible space.

The recent fuels and fire behavior advisory from the Wind River Bighorn Basin District of the BLM specifically targeted areas below 5,000 feet.

“We encourage everyone to think about how and where they will move their animals should fire threaten their homes,” Youngquist said. “All of the spring moisture this year contributed to exceptional growth of annual grasses like cheatgrass. The fuel loads are very high, and we have already had four rapidly moving fires in Washakie County.”

The fires, one started by a chain dragging on a highway, burned over 3,500 acres.

Many rural residents have an assortment of animals and pets such as dogs, horses, 4-H animals, chickens and others, which increases the complexity and difficulty of evacuation, said Fenton.

“These workshops will provide residents with information on steps to help defend their property against wildfire and creating evacuation plans for not only family members, but also pets and livestock,” she said.

“The bottom line is that no one else can make an evacuation plan for your property, and having a plan will save precious time, and maybe even lives, in the case of an evacuation. Don’t put it off.”

Eve Warren, fire ecologist with the BLM, in the fuels and fire advisory called this year’s grass growth remarkable, with fine fuel loads more than 50 percent higher than average for this time of year. Warren noted mats of shorter annual grasses are acting as ladder fuels to taller grasses, in some cases leading to fire spread rates of 20 feet per minute.

For more information about the sessions, contact Youngquist at 307-347-3431 or Fenton at 307-347-2456, ext 121.