Teton County keeps its ban on open fires intact
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
August 4, 2012
Teton County officials had been considering lifting fire restrictions but backed off Friday after hearing from U.S. Forest Service officials, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Willy Watsabaugh said.
County commissioners met Friday to discuss the issue but did not take any action.
Conditions just weren’t right yet in all areas overseen by Teton Interagency Fire, and the county didn’t want to confuse travelers and residents by having different restrictions from place to place in the region.
“I think it’s important that we all stay with a unified message,” Watsa-baugh said.
Watsabaugh said the fire danger has lessened over the past month, but that agencies are still seeing starts, primarily from lightning, almost every day.
Teton Interagency Fire has had a partial-fire restriction in effect since the first week of July. The interagency group is composed of Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memor-ial Parkway, National Elk Refuge and fire services for Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties.
The partial ban restricts campfires and barbecue grills except at established campgrounds and picnic areas.
“We’re on the cusp of going off [restrictions], but we’re trying to work with other counties in western Wyoming and the BLM,” Bridger-Teton fire specialist Andy Norman said.
Fire managers will watch the weather through the weekend before making any decisions, Norman said.
The National Weather Service forecasts no precipitation through Monday. Ten-day forecasts see little moisture on the way, with Monday being the only day with much chance of any precip-
The agency’s measurement for fuels combustibility, which rates the dryness and volume of dead and live trees, litter and grasses, broke records in early July.
The “build-up” index, a measure of how hot a wildfire is capable of getting relative to the time of year, has since fallen into a more normal range.
If the weather forecasts are accurate, the index is expected to soon move back up toward the “90th percentile,” Grand Teton fire information officer Traci Weaver said.
“If you’re in the 90th percentile, that means it’s the driest 10 percent for that day,” Weaver said. “We’re going to be climbing back up to that within the next few days.”
Weaver reminded people that early August is typically when the fire season “just starts getting going.”
“We’re still early in the season and have probably two months to go yet,” she said.
Norman agreed that “people should not be caught off guard” by the recent favorable weather.
In addition to campfire restrictions, the partial ban also requires that chain saws have spark arresters, and a fire extinguisher and shovel must be on hand. Portable stoves that run on gas, petroleum and pressurized fuel are not affected by the bans.
— Kevin Huelsmann contributed to this story.