Federal, state and local fire officials are closely watching fire conditions in Teton County as the weather remains hot and dry.
During a conference call Tuesday, with another planned for today, officials with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and the National Weather Service discussed the possibility of a fire ban.
“If it stays dry it is probably coming,” Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen said Tuesday.
Under Wyoming state law, the county fire warden can impose fire restrictions because of extreme conditions or drought, to lessen the chances of human-caused fires.
“As the fire chief I look at the valley floor,” Hansen said. “It’s dryer than the mountain range. I look to see if the grasses will carry a significant distance.”
Fire danger remains “high” in Teton County and was just increased today to “very high” in the Wyoming zone, the southwest corner of Teton Interagency Fire rating areas.
Andy Norman, forest fuels specialist for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, said his agency isn’t quite ready to sign off on fire restrictions.
“You don’t want to go in and out of restrictions in one day,” Norman said. “People are hiking into the Winds, and they’ll be in there for a week. It’s why we try to do it in a coordinated manner.”
There are several guidelines officials follow before implementing a fire ban.
Specialists are constantly measuring moisture levels and the dryness of grass, brush and trees.
“It’s been a normal year,” Norman said. “But the last week it’s started to get drier.”
Teton County implemented a partial fire restriction in September 2018, when Chief Hansen told elected officials they were seeing “extreme fire behavior.”
At that time the Roosevelt Fire was raging near Bondurant, and Hansen was concerned about overwhelming the local fire service.
Hansen said they’re conservative when implementing fire bans.
“It impacts the whole community,” Hansen said.
There are two fires burning in Teton County, but they are in remote areas and not moving much, Hansen said.
The Forest Service is keeping an eye on them.
Less than 100 miles south of Jackson, firefighters have made progress on the Tannerite Fire, a 1,300-acre wildfire burning southeast of Pinedale. [See a related story on page 40A].
Investigators are still trying to determine the official cause of the fire, but it was named after a brand of exploding shooting targets, which are illegal on forest and Bureau of Land Management property.
“It’s tragic when human-caused fires are burning down homes and burning up people’s property,” Hansen said. “We really ask that people use extreme caution with everything from parking hot cars on top of grass, to target shooting, to campfires, to everything else, and know that the likelihood of starting a fire is great. They have to be extra careful.”
The Bridger-Teton National Forest has counted 101 campfires so far this summer that were not properly extinguished.
“It’s about reiterating that putting your fire out is drowning it with water and stirring the ashes together into a muddy soup and putting your hand in and feeling it to make sure there is no heat,” said Kasey Stewart, acting public affairs assistant for the Bridger-Teton. “Campfires and warming fires remain a big concern.”
To keep an eye on changing fire danger, go to NIFC.gov.