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April 03, 2014 7:16 am

EDITORIAL: 2004 NWC fire led to safety being stressed

Written by Tom Lawrence

Thumbs up to the safety-oriented practices that followed the fire on the Northwest College campus a decade ago.

Bridger Hall was extensively damaged in a fire on March 30, 2004. Thankfully, no one was injured or killed in the blaze, which was sparked by an electrical malfunction, reportedly in a power strip.

While the fact that it occurred during the afternoon likely was a reason there were no injuries, the building could no longer be used. The NWC community, and the people of Powell, responded and assisted the displaced students. That’s a happy memory from that troubled time.

In 2005, the Wyoming Legislature reacted, mandating that all college residence halls must have sprinklers. Bridger Hall did not, which allowed a small fire to turn into a major event.

That and other safety procedures have eased many parents’ minds and made their children, the students of Wyoming’s colleges and university, much safer.

It’s regrettable it took such a devastating fire to cause that to happen, but it’s a very good thing that something was done to reduce the risk of a deadly fire on a campus. From the ashes of Bridger Hall, positive steps were taken, and that’s worth noting a decade later, too.

Thumbs down to the slow start area farmers are getting this spring.

They’re like drivers at a racetrack, eager to get to it, ready to complete their turns in their fields, waiting for the gun to sound. So far, what they have heard far too often is the sound of rain on their roofs and windows.

Farmers are about a week to 10 days behind, we were told in the past few days. But the forecast calls for warmer and drier conditions, so the fields will dry and the crops will be seeded.

That needs to happen, with our area so dependent on agriculture. The old saying is, “Be careful what you wish for — you may get it.” When we see all the moisture this spring, we are reminded how true that is.

Thumbs up to the low unemployment rate in Wyoming.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 4.3 percent to 4.2 percent in February, according to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. That’s as low as any point since it hit 3.9 percent in December 2008.

By comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.

Every county in the state reported a decline compared to the same time in 2013, and Sublette and Converse counties tied for the lowest unemployment rates at 3.4 percent. Lincoln, Johnson and Fremont counties had the highest unemployment rates.

Park County is still nearer the bottom than the top, however, with an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, tied with Big Horn County for the fourth worst in the state.

However, the unemployment rate in Park County dropped, going from 6.2 percent in January to 5.9 percent in February.

Thumbs down to grass fires that are starting to pop up in the area.

While burning fields is a necessary part of cropland management, we encourage people to burn safely, to plan ahead, to call before they burn to report their fire and keep officials alerted and to avoid burning in dangerous times, such as during windy, dry conditions.

Thankfully, the Powell Volunteer Fire Department is quick to respond. But our volunteers should not have to be called out as often this year. The same soggy conditions that have slowed farmers have curtailed some fires.

Now we just need people to cooperate.

Thumbs up to the increase in Park County’s population.

There are more than 400 new residents here who arrived in 2012 and 2013, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. The county had 29,227 residents in July, up 1.4 percent — or 410 residents — from the same month in 2012.

That made Park County the fourth-most successful county in the state as far as gaining people, since only three other Wyoming counties welcomed more people over the course of the year. Since we live in the least-populated state in the country, we’re glad to welcome new residents.

While births were a factor, with 316 new arrivals compared to 243 deaths, most of the credit goes to the estimated 310 people who relocated to Park County, assuredly drawn at least in part by the quality educational opportunities, the glorious natural vistas and the friendly people.

As we all know, you can’t blame them for wanting to live here.

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