“We’ve got a difficult situation in the state and it’s arrived here in Park County for at least the next three, possibly four months,” said Commission Chairman Tim French.
The restrictions took effect at 10 a.m. Thursday.
“This is going to inconvenience some members of the public out there, I think we all know that,” said Commissioner Dave Burke. “Nobody’s looking for a fire restriction just because we want one, but it’s a public safety issue.”
Some routine activities involving fire, such as barbecuing and trash burning, remain legal, but have restrictions:
• trash can be burned only between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. in containers equipped with spark arresters and in an area that has 10 clear feet of space on each side
• campfires must be within an established fire ring at an established campground
• charcoal fires should be kept within enclosed grills
• welding and branding operations can only take place in a cleared area that has 10 feet of space on each side
• chainsaws must have working spark arresters
Other than those exceptions, says the county’s resolution, fires are banned. The resolution indicates the restrictions only apply to cropland, agricultural land and undeveloped land.
Anyone who violates the order could be fined as much as $100 and sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.
The county last implemented fire restrictions in 2007, and at that time commissioners carved out an exception for agricultural field burning if they were cleared with the local fire department beforehand.
This year, such burns are banned.
“Fire doesn’t care who starts it, it could be with the best of intentions. Once it’s going, it’s going,” said Burke.
Commissioners Loren Grosskopf and French asked if there were ways to allow burns in certain, less high-risk parts of the county, but County Fire Warden Russ Wenke said he didn’t want the extra work for sheriff’s dispatchers sorting through burn calls.
Also, “this early in the year, I couldn’t feel good about recommending anybody be out lighting stuff on fire,” said Deputy County Fire Warden Sam Wilde.
Wilde said most people already have burned their fields and won’t do so again until the fall.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to last until the snowfall or anything,” Wenke said of the restrictions. “In fact, typically we’ve tried to remove the restrictions just as quickly as we could.”
He added that if he had his say, he’d love to have fireworks banned year-round.
Wenke did not recommend beginning the restrictions until after the Fourth of July holiday, in part because he didn’t think it was going to be possible to enforce them sooner than July 5.
The local Bureau of Land Management, the Shoshone National Forest, Bighorn National Forest and Yellowstone National Park have all implemented simliar fire restrictions within the last week.
Gov. Matt Mead has asked all of Wyoming’s counties to implement fire bans because of the hot, dry conditions. He noted the state’s limited fire-fighting resources.
“Large fire resources, bringing fire resources in from outside, is going to be very difficult,” Wenke said.
The good news, he said, is that local fire-fighting resources, such as those with the Shoshone National Forest and Bureau of Land Management, are “in very good shape” to make the initial response to a fire.
“We do have ... some additional initial attack resources, because everybody knows it’s critical we not get another big one,” Wenke said.
French noted a Montana fire between Broadus and Lame Deer that’s burned nearly 245,000 acres and claimed more than 16 homes since a June 25 lightning start.
“I would urge the public to please, please, please watch what they’re doing with fire,” he said.