Sublette lifts its fire restrictions with caution


SUBLETTE COUNTY – Ranchers across western Wyoming are thankful for the precipitation that finally came in recent weeks. It’s quenched a dire thirst for livestock and wildlife alike, finally leading the county out of disastrous drought conditions.

Sublette County Commissioner Doug Vickrey knows that – he just finished baling. But he also raised some concerns during a late addition to the agenda in the Sept. 7 commissioners’ meeting.

Sublette County Unified Fire Chief Shad Cooper approached the commissioners during that meeting requesting a vote to lift fire restrictions on private land in the county. That move would follow similar lifting of restrictions by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in the area.

Before a vote was cast regarding Cooper’s request, Vickrey asked the room if they remembered when the Roosevelt Fire started. Some, like county administrator Matt Gaffney, said the exact date from the remaining crowd. No commissioner could remember when, although chair Joel Bousman said he thought it was around the same time on the calendar. He then said this year’s precipitation is better than conditions on Sept. 15, 2018.

A hunter left a fire unattended that day, a hunting party reported it, and 55 buildings ultimately were destroyed across 61,511 burnt acres. With Sublette County prepared to once again host hunting groups, Vickrey said there will be fires.

Cooper said the request was to stay consistent with BLM and Forest Service. Commissioners, including Vickrey, voted unanimously to lift restrictions. That applies to private lands in the county and was effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning.

That same day, Teton Interagency Fire managers elevated fire dangers in Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest to high, effective immediately. That did not restrict fires but instead conveyed alternatives to recreationists as conditions favor a rapid-spreading fire. So far, the agency confirmed more than 155 illegal or abandoned fires in the Teton Interagency Fire area.

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