|View of the fire from my deck|
by Jean Henry Mead
An unprecedented amount of fires are burning across the county, the majority of them in the West. One of them isn't far from my mountain ranch. The Medicine Bow-Russell’s Camp fire has burned more than eight square miles of mountain timber during the last two weeks and the smoke presents serious health problems. High winds have hampered the efforts of some 620 firefighters, who have only been able to contain 25% of the blaze with the help of slurry helicopters.
Wyoming’s largest ever fire, The Fontennell in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, has devastated nearly forty square miles, with no containment due to high winds in the western part of the state. Fires are also burning in the Shoshone National Forest near the Montana border and across the southern corridor of the state. Smoke blown by strong westerly winds, from not only the Fontennell fire but the 25,000 acre Sheridan-Johnson county fire, made Casper, the state’s second largest city, appear to be shrouded in fog. More than 30 ranches have had to be evacuated so far.
According to Bridger-Teton spokeswoman Mary Cernick, “It’s still a very active fire, and by active I mean it’s growing and making runs and its behavior isn’t predictable.” The unusually early fire season is due in part to a lack of precipitation and early drying of grasses although the Fontenelle Fire is blamed on a downed power line. Temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s have made firefighting even more hazardous and I can’t imagine so many volunteers risking their lives in the heat in their heavy protective clothing.
Our neighbor to the south has experienced even more devastation, its most destructive fire season in history. The Colorado Springs’ fire has already destroyed nearly 350 homes and 30,000 residents have evacuated, not knowing whether they have homes to return to.
Some of our other bordering states, Utah, Idaho and Montana, are also burning and new fires have been reported in other areas of Wyoming, making it a smoke-filled state. I’m most grateful to the brave firefighters who have risked their lives to contain the fires in my own area as well as across the country.