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July 06, 2012 8:20 am

EDITORIAL: Prevention a must as fires multiply

Written by Ilene Olson

As the impacts from this year’s fire season continue to grow and spread closer to home, we commend those locals who chose not to set off fireworks this year, and those who celebrated with fireworks in a safe manner on private property.

The Powell Volunteer Fire Department responded to only one fireworks-related grass fire on the Fourth of July, and it was a very small fire that was quickly put out.

Up until the last few days, Powell and much of the Big Horn Basin have been spared the smoke and misery associated with wildfires in Wyoming and neighboring states. But in recent days, smoke from the new Bear Cub Fire in the Teton Wilderness has streamed across the sky over Powell — a reminder that we aren’t immune to those problems.

A fire ban in Park County began Thursday, July 5, and will continue until further notice. Park County Commissioners took the action earlier this week, adding their concerns to those expressed by state and federal officials.

Gov. Matt Mead has urged Wyoming citizens to take extra care in the outdoors.

“At this time, the risk of fire is extreme and there are several large wildfires burning in Wyoming and in other states,” he said in a news release Monday.

We add our voices to Mead’s and others in asking residents and visitors to obey all fire bans on federal, state and county lands and to do everything possible to prevent new fires from starting. Fires can start from something as simple as driving through tall, dry grass or using a chain saw without a spark arrester.

It is imperative that we not add to the list of human-caused fires that are threatening homes and livelihoods and consuming federal, state and local resources.

A trip to Laramie last week provided several examples of the far-reaching impacts of fires burning now.

Two young men holding plastic bags filled with folded clothing walked into a local hotel late last week and asked if there were any vacancies. The young men, both from Idaho, looked tired. They had been fighting the High Park Fire near Fort Collins, Colo., and they were in need of a good night’s rest as they began their way home.

At the same Laramie hotel, a mother was trying to find ways to make the coming days as normal as possible for her daughter, who turned 6 on Tuesday. They were some of the thousands of people who were evacuated as the Waldo Fire near Colorado Springs, Colo., threatened their homes.

This week, Laramie is the base of operations for the fight against the Squirrel Creek Fire, burning northwest of Laramie, which is threatening homes in small communities in that area and resulted in evacuations there as well. Small dome tents cover the lawn at Laramie High School, temporary housing for the firefighters battling the wildfire. Smoke covers the city, and Laramie residents have come together to offer aid to their suffering neighbors and to firefighters.

Those firefighters come from far and wide.

A July 4 comment by “Jennifer” following a news story in the Laramie Boomerang about the fire said, “My husband is going to fight this fire. He is arriving shortly; his crew has traveled all the way from where we live in Roseburg, Oregon. You are all in our prayers. I pray that he stays safe. He loves what he does and is a true hero. I miss him very much.”

Normally, the Fourth of July is the start of a wildfire season. This year, it’s already well under way. For many, this is going to be a very long summer.

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