With the county fire and fireworks ban lifted at the Park County commissioner meeting on Tuesday, the last of local fire restrictions were removed for the public.
The commissioners unanimously approved lifting the stage 1 fire restrictions at the recommendation of Jerry Parker, Park County Fire District No. 2 administrator.
“It’s still awfully dry out there and I would encourage people to remain very cautious,” Commissioner Joe Tilden warned.
The commissioners enacted the ban on July 5. Parker had pushed for the ban to go into place before the July 4 weekend, a move that Commissioner Lloyd Thiel backed, but received tepid support from the rest of the board.
Although the commissioners had the power to grant specific exemptions on the fire and fireworks ban, no requests came to them. Although there were a number of calls made reporting fireworks to sheriff’s deputies, no citations were issued on the activity.
Drought conditions were at their worst in mid to late July before slowly improving over the course of August.
Currently, Park County lands south and west of Meeteetse have the lowest risk of fire, only considered to be in a moderate drought status.
The Shoshone National Forest lifted their fire restrictions on Aug. 25 and the BLM followed suit Aug. 31.
“Even though we may still have some warm dry weather left before winter, we will probably not return to the extreme conditions that prompted the fire closures,” Parker wrote to the commissioners on Aug. 31.
So far, the county has been able to avoid any significant wildland fires. The most significant local burn was the Robertson Draw Fire north of Clark and near Red Lodge in Montana. This fire was 95% contained as of Sept. 1 with no smoke viewed in the uncontained portion for 20 days prior.
“We’ve been fortunate in our county this year,” Parker told the commissioners on Tuesday.
Fires have ravaged forests throughout the West and rest of the world this summer. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor by August 31, about 90% of Western land was experiencing moderate to severe drought. A dry spring and June heat wave brought wildfires about a month ahead of schedule for most areas.
The county may not be out of the woods just yet as far as fire risk, with no more than a 20% chance of precipitation forecasted any day in the next week. More than half the county is still under extreme drought conditions according to the Drought Monitor, and conditions are actually worse now locally than they were on Aug. 3, with no significant precipitation in recent weeks.
Conditions are so dry, Thiel said, it could actually be a blessing when it comes to fire risk.
“The fact that we are in a heck of drought, there’s not the fuel that could be due to dryness as well,” he said. “We don’t have the vegetation out there so the fuel levels are low.”