‘Very, very dry out’ there: Fire danger higher now than in last three years

Firefighters extinguish remaining embers after containing the fire off WYO 95 near Rolling Hills.

A grassfire that scorched more than 400 acres of land on Aug. 27 near Glenrock is only one of many such wildfires to ignite this season, exemplifying the increased risks facing Converse County and other areas of the West.

“I’d like to remind everyone, especially with hunting season coming up and folks getting out into the field . . . everyone needs to be really careful. Conditions are significantly primed for fires right now. It is very, very dry out,” Glenrock Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Brewer said.

“The risk is extreme,” he added.

The risks can be attributed to this year’s dry summer, and the fact that the area had less moisture this spring than during the last three years, Brewer explained.

Unusually dry, warm and windy conditions have increased the risks of fire this season, Lead Meteorologist and Fire Weather Program Co-Lead Aviva Braun with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne agreed.

An increase in recreational activities like hiking and camping -- especially as people seek to enjoy the outdoors during the pandemic -- may also be playing a role in the heightened incidences of fires, Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Aaron Voos said.

People should be aware of any fire restrictions in place where they are, which can vary depending on the location, he said.

Braun urged residents to be aware of their surroundings and to be extra cautious. For instance, be sure campfires are fully out once you’re done, she said, and be careful not to drag any chains along the highway.

Fire restrictions for Converse County went into effect on June 17 and are in place through Oct. 15.

Outdoor and open fires, including the discharge of fireworks, are prohibited within the unincorporated areas of the county. Exceptions include gas and charcoal fires within enclosed grills and propane or open fire branding activities in cleared areas 10 feet in radius.

The Aug. 27 fire, caused by lightning strikes from a storm passing over the Glenrock and Rolling Hills communities, ignited more than 400 acres near Duke Energy’s Top of the World Wind Farm behind Rolling Hills.

The fire was reported to emergency service at 5:19 p.m.

Thirteen firefighters from Glenrock responded to battle the flames with assistance from the Douglas Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Forest Service, Converse County Rural Fire Department, Road and Bridge, private area landowners, and water haulers who brought full water tanks to help. Aircraft was also involved in dropping water from the air to help put the fire out.

WYO 95 was closed in both directions between milepost 10 and 15 due to poor visibility due to smoke. Motorists were advised to use caution, expect delays and be prepared to stop if necessary, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

WYO 93 was also closed, although both roads were reopened later that evening as firefighters had the blaze under control around 7 p.m., Brewer noted.

“The fire was contained and we released resources, but Glenrock firefighters and a few BLM personnel remained on-scene until 12:30 a.m. Aug. 28,” he said.

No structures were damaged in the fire.

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