By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The fire danger rating has been increased to “very high” for national parks and forests in northwestern Wyoming, officials have announced.
Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge all saw their fire danger ratings increased on Tuesday.
Conditions in the area are drying quickly and a fire may start easily, spread quickly and burn intensely, forest and park officials said. Visitors are asked to practice heightened fire safety at all times.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest has implemented Stage 1 Fire Restrictions as reported last week. These restrictions allow fires only in developed campgrounds and picnic areas in approved structures. Fires are also allowed in the Teton and Gros Ventre Wilderness areas.
Campfires in Grand Teton are limited to designated and installed fire rings and/or grills. Campfires aren’t allowed on the National Elk Refuge.
Teton Interagency Fire personnel have extinguished 179 unattended or abandoned campfires so far this summer. Abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires.
Where campfires are allowed, it is important they are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended and can be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire.
Fire managers use a variety of factors to determine fire danger ratings including the moisture content of grasses, shrubs and trees, projected weather conditions (including temperatures and possible wind events) and the ability of fire to spread after ignition.
The National Weather Service has issued multiple red flag warnings for the area in the past week. These are issued when elevated fire weather conditions are expected, such as hot temperatures and low relative humidity, sustained gusty winds, and lightning.
These above average conditions have stressed vegetation in the local area accelerating normal late season drying.
Firewood cutters are reminded to exercise caution with equipment and fuel and be prepared with a fire extinguisher and shovel on hand.