PINEDALE – On Sept. 21, the Teton Interagency Fire managers elevated the fire danger rating to extreme for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park and all of Teton County.
“A fire danger rating of extreme means fires can start quickly, spread vigorously and burn intensely,” a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) release stated. “All fires are potentially serious, and development into high-intensity burning will usually be faster and occur from smaller fires than in the very high danger class.”
Despite the obvious transition of summer into fall, with the area seeing shorter days and cooler nights, the lack of precipitation throughout the summer months was the main cause for the elevation. As of Wednesday, there was no word as to whether the precipitation that fell earlier in the week had a great enough effect to warrant a fire danger reduction.
Both area residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to help prevent wildfires through vigilance and adhering to the USFS’s partial fire restrictions, which remain in effect for both the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park.
Lighting, building or using a campfire, barbecue or grill is only allowed at designated recreations sites like established campgrounds or picnic areas. The use of portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted.
Smoking cigarettes, cigars, etc. is only permitted in an enclosed vehicle, developed recreation site or when in an area at least three feet in diameter that is cleared of all flammable materials, such as parking lots, developed campsites or locations surrounded by water.
Operating a chainsaw is prohibited in national parks and is only allowed in national forests when the tool is equipped with U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved spark arresters. Operators must also carry a fire extinguisher and a shovel.
Setting off fireworks or using explosives that require blasting caps are prohibited. Welding is prohibited in national parks. In national forests, welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame is only allowed in areas where all flammable material is cleared for at least 10 feet in diameter. A fire extinguisher must be at the location when welding or using an open flame torch.
Individuals who choose to ignore these restrictions are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual, $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for more than six months.
“It is essential that everyone comply with these regulations, especially given the current fire danger rating and tinder-dry conditions,” the USFS press released concluded. “At campsites throughout the area, dozens of unattended campfires have been extinguished by rangers and firefighters.”
A stiff breeze is enough to spread embers from an unattended campfire, and those embers can quickly escalate into an out of control wildfire, so campers are reminded to never leave a campfire until it is cold to the touch.
To report smoke or fire in either the Birgder-Teton National Forest or Teton County, call the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at (307) 739-3630. A list of locations where campfires are allowed, up to date fire information and other restrictions can be found at www.tetonfires.com.