Officials Fear Massive Wyoming Spring Growth Could Become Massive Wildfire Season

While Canada is roasting and large wildfires have broken out in other states, Wyoming’s fire outlook looks good — for now.

Mark Heinz

July 20, 20234 min read

The Mullen Fire that broke out in September 2020 in the Snowy Range Mountains West of Laramie, burned 180,000 acres.
The Mullen Fire that broke out in September 2020 in the Snowy Range Mountains West of Laramie, burned 180,000 acres. (File)

Wyoming may yet dodge the worst of the fire season this year, if the Cowboy State’s luck holds and the weather stays relatively wet.

So far, it’s looking like it will, at least for the next few weeks, meteorologist Don Day told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

“There’s nothing to indicate, from what I see, that we’re going to dovetail into a severe dry streak,” he said.

After a record winter snowpack and wet spring, much of Wyoming saw exceptional growth of grass and other potential wildfire fuel. That raised concern that, as things dry out toward summer, the state could be in for a monster fire season.

Trouble In Canada, Other States

After a dry spring up north, vast swaths of Canada suffered explosive wildfires that put parts of the United States, including Wyoming, under a pall of smoke.

And fire season was starting to kick off in other parts of the country, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Large wildfires were reported this week in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Oregon.

The fire center’s up-to-date wildfire reporting site showed no significant blazes in Wyoming as of Thursday afternoon.

Though 777,732 acres had burned in the United States since January, that was well below the 10-year national average for this time of year with 3,108,771 acres burned, according to the fire center.

Caution Still Needed

Likewise, Wyoming’s wildfire risk this week was “trending below average for this time of year mostly due to above average moisture this spring and early summer,” Bureau of Land Management spokesman Micky Fisher told Cowboy State Daily.

That moisture has created an increase in fine fuel growth in many places across the state,” he added. “As Wyoming enters into late-July and August, fire danger and potential is expected to increase as those fine fuels — grasses and small woody shrubs — begin to cure and dry out.”

Thunderboomers Waning

Dry lightning causes many forest and range fires in Wyoming, but the risk for that will remain low, at least in central and southern Wyoming, Day said.

Typical of this time of year, a “monsoon season” is expected to bring a repeated pattern of bright, sunny mornings, followed by cloudy afternoons and possibly scattered thunderstorms.

That will continue to put moisture on the ground in much of Wyoming, further delaying grave fire danger, Day said.

“The short-term concerns are mainly for the northern half of the state – the Interstate 90 corridor, and the Bighorn Basin,” he said.

By late August and September, it will likely be clear skies and dryer weather, he added.

“I would say that, based upon what we’ve seen from spring into early summer, we’re going to have a shorter fire season,” Day said.

Human Error

While the weather might not be too apt to start major blazes for a while, human error is always a worry for firefighters, Fisher said.

“The biggest thing impacting fire occurrence in Wyoming is a fire start source,” he said.

While lightning sparks fires in Wyoming, on average human-caused wildfires make up 87% of wildfire occurrences every year. These fires happen near roads, communities and recreational areas, posing considerable risk to public safety.”

And some of the worst fires can start later in the season, Day said.

The 2020 Mullen Fire in the Snowy Range Mountains West of Laramie started Sept. 17 that year, and it had snowed in the mountains the week before, he said.

That fire consumed nearly 180,000 acres, and wasn’t contained until the end of October.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter