CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Representatives from state and federal wildfire agencies provided updates on the upcoming fire season and offered safety tips for community members during a morning press conference.
Wildfire season runs from June to roughly September each year, when the state’s climate is the driest and fires are more likely to occur, spread and affect resources.
At the conference, which took place at the State Forestry Maintenance and Fabrication Shop in Cheyenne, Interim State Forester Kelly Norris said Wyoming is expected to have a normal to average fire season. Extra snow and moisture from the winter and spring are expected to buffer the higher-than-normal temperatures expected this summer, Norris said.
“As summer continues and fields in the grassland and mountains dry up, we expect to see an uptick in fire activity, especially in late summer and into the fall,” she said during the conference.
More information about the state’s upcoming fire season is available in the 2023 National Significant Wildland Fire Outlook report.
Deb Oakeson, deputy Regional Forester for the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region, said pre-season treatment was done to lower the state’s risk of wildfires. The agency conducted prescribed land burning and mechanical treatments for 14,000 acres of land in the intermountain region, which covers 13 national forests and one national grassland within Utah, Nevada, western Wyoming and southern Idaho.
New wildfire-fighting initiatives are also being launched in Wyoming this season, Norris said. The State Forestry acquired a Type 3 helicopter that came into contract today and is being on-boarded at the program’s Glendale headquarters. Type 3 is a small wildfire helicopter that has a high cruise speed and can transport firefighters and large quantities of water. The aircraft will be stationed at a Single-Engine Air Tanker, or SEAT, base in Casper-Natrona County International Airport.
SEATs are small airplanes used to support wildland firefighters on the ground. At a SEAT base, the airplanes can be refueled and loaded with mixing tanks filled with fire retardant materials.
The airport houses a small SEAT base, but Andrew Archuleta, Wyoming Bureau of Land Management director, said the BLM will expand the base next week to accommodate for larger air tankers.
“It’s another great resource that’s available to all of us,” he said during the conference.
Shad Cooper, president of the fire advisory board for the Wyoming Rural Firefighters Association as well as the Sublette County Fire Warden, said he is proud at the combined efforts to keep Wyoming safe.
“We’re proud to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our local, state and federal partners,” he said during the conference. “Communities don’t care what color the fire trucks are. What they care about is that we respond and help our communities and minimize impact and try to keep the unwanted fires small.”
As the season approaches, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wyomingites should learn more about wildfire prevention measures.
“I think it’s important everyone who enjoys Wyoming outdoors remembers that it’s their responsibility to make sure fires are out and they don’t do anything that cause possible harm,” he said during the conference. “Fires are dangerous, we’ve lost far too many people … in the pursue of making our homes and communities safe.”
The featured wildfire agencies offer the following fire prevention and safety tips to community members:
- Have a fire evacuation plan for homes and businesses.
- Be mindful of fire dangers, including campfires, burning grass and weather conditions.
- Get to know local and state wildfire suppression agencies and keep their contacts nearby in case of an emergency.