PINEDALE – Since May 3, the Sublette County Unified Fire Department responded to multiple fires fueled by dry grasses and fanned by high winds.
According to SCUF Public Information Officer Mike Petty, on the May 7, there were three separate fire calls requiring some units to respond to back-to-back calls across the county. Additional resources were called, using crews from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Monday afternoon, crews responded to New Park Facility at Sand Draw where a pallet of loose well-circulation material burned. The pallet was being shrink-wrapped by using plastic and a torch. The material was compared to bags of mulch.
Due to the proximity of numerous chemicals, firefighters wore breathing apparatuses for protection. The incident command post and other persons in the area were all moved upwind of the fire. In addition, a crew stayed onsite after the fire was doused to ensure the fire did not reignite.
Other fires initially started as controlled burns that exceeded the containment efforts by property owners when the wind picked up after the fires were started. Another fire was unintentionally started when sparks were created during mechanical ditch cleaning.
A second response was required to one of the fires after the landowner dragged the previously burned area with a tractor, possibly allowing air to reach still-hot fuels and rekindle unburned grass.
Petty warns that dryer than normal conditions around the lower elevations this year, along with moderate winds, have sapped the moisture from the “finer” fuels, such as grasses and small bushes – willows and sagebrush – causing them to readily burn and allow fire.