More Grass Fires Break Out Near Cheyenne; Tornado-Like Fire Skips Along Prairie

Homes were evacuated and roads were closed as more grass fires broke out north and west of Cheyenne on Friday. One fire looked like a tornado skipping along the prairie north of Cheyenne.

Andrew Rossi

March 01, 20246 min read

Grass fire in Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024
Grass fire in Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024 (Credit: Victoria Ganskow)

Another large grass fire broke out in the Cheyenne area on Friday morning creating evacuation warnings and multiple road closings. This is the second such grass fire to happen in the area in the past week.

High winds accelerated the spread of the flames near Horse Creek Road shortly after 12:30 p.m. and residents around Road 117 and Horse Creek Road were told to evacuate.

Onlookers in the area say once it started, it quickly grew in size and ferocity.

“We saw the first bit of smoke about 10 o'clock this morning,” Victoria Ganskow told Cowboy State Daily. “The fire was at the closest spot, about 1.3 miles away from our house. We're watching the flames go up and down over the hills. It looks like it's pretty out of control right now.”

Ganskow and her family were told to prepare for evacuation, but they had yet to leave their home by 2:45 p.m.

Jason Volkmar saw the first signs of a fire around 9:45 a.m. He was on Happy Jack Road when he stopped to assess the scene.

“From my vantage point, probably about two miles away, the flames that I could see were definitely four or five feet,” he said. “There were a couple of really black spots that were burning really dark smoke, so I'm assuming those were small structures that probably burned.”

No High Wind Warnings

The National Weather Service Office in Cheyenne anticipated wind gusts of up to 35 mph, but no High Wind Warnings or Advisories were in effect on Friday. Volkmar said the wind was dramatically influencing the spread of the fire.

“You could see how much the winds shifted from one direction to the other,” he said. “It looked like it was more of an easterly push, maybe a little southeasterly this morning. At noon, it was definitely more of a northeasterly push with the wind, and the fire was going that way.”

Volkmar didn’t have an accurate gauge on how much the fire had consumed from his vantage point, but he estimated at least 100 acres were burned by noon.

Ganskow watched graders actively trying to establish a fire line to prevent the spread of the flames. She estimated the fire’s front stretched as far as 10 miles.

Closures And Warnings

The Laramie County Fire Authority assumed control of the firefighting effort. Multiple firefighting agencies were asked to respond, including firefighters from the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority in Colorado and four trucks from F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

Multiple engines were on scene by 3 p.m., and at least one helicopter providing aerial support with a helibucket. The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office asked everyone to avoid the area and take alternate routes for travel west of town.

Residents in the area of Road 117 and Horse Creek Road were ordered to evacuate.  As of 3 p.m., an additional evacuation has been ordered for the Happy Valley subdivision between Happy Jack Road and Dusty Road.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation advised residents that both lanes on WY210 were blocked and commuters should seek an alternative route, although the road was not officially closed as of 3:15 p.m. Horse Creek Road was closed indefinitely.

Cheyenne residents were mobilizing to assist the evacuated families however they could. Many were offering trailers to evacuate livestock from the affected area.

Cheyenne Frontier Days and Saddle Up Stables offered stall space for evacuated livestock, while the Cheyenne Animal Shelter and Broken Bandit Wildlife Center offered to take in evacuated dogs, cats, and other small animals.

  • Grassfires in Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024
    Grassfires in Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024 (Credit: Victoria Ganskow)
  • Grassfires north and west of Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024
    Grassfires north and west of Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024 (Credit: Victoria Ganskow)
  • Grassfires north and west of Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024
    Grassfires north and west of Cheyenne on Friday, March 1, 2024 (Credit: Victoria Ganskow)


A video of one of the fires north of Cheyenne looked like a tornado.

The size of the rapidly moving smoke cloud dwarfed a full size truck driving nearby.

"It was the craziest thing I've ever seen," Don Reddy told Cowboy State Daily. "Here it is, a completely sunny day and you've got this thing that looks exactly like a tornado coming out of nowhere. It was really bizarre."

Second In A Week

This is the second outbreak of grass fires near the capital city in the past week. On Saturday, fires broke out south of town closing Interstate 25 briefly and shutting down two lanes on Interstate 80.

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said the fire's intensity can't be blamed on unseasonably dry weather. Because this winter, Cheyenne isn't either.

"Cheyenne has had above-normal precipitation in January and February," he said. "The wind, obviously, is the bigger factor. I don't know how it started, but you can't blame excessive dryness for this fire."

Latest From Laramie County Sheriff's Office


We are pleased to announce that the evacuation order for the Milliron, Barberry, and Blue Willow subdivisions has been lifted. You are now able to return to your homes safely.

However, please note that access to these subdivisions will be restricted to residents only at this time. All other individuals are kindly requested to refrain from entering the area for the time being.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation throughout this challenging situation. Your safety remains our top priority.

Happy Jack Road Fire Update @4:44pm

Crews continue to battle grass fire in Laramie County; resources available for evacuees

Local and state resources continue to fight a large grass fire that broke out in western Laramie County on Friday, March 1.

As of 4 p.m., mandatory evacuation areas are in place for several locations in western Laramie County along Horse Creek Road (WYO 211) and Happy Jack Road (WYO 210). Road closures are in place as needed.

Evacuees are being directed to North Christian Church (2015 Tranquility Road), where shelter is available as well as information on sheltering both small and large animals. Residents are asked to check in and provide their address and may be able to receive updates on their property.

The fire’s size is being determined, but is generally between Horse Creek Road and Happy Jack Road east of Road 109 and west of Roundtop Road (WYO 222).

The Joint Emergency Operations Center has been activated at the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security. Laramie County fire districts, Cheyenne Fire Rescue, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, and State of Wyoming resources have responded to the fire. Air support resources are also on site as are support crews from Colorado.

This is an ongoing story and we will update it when new information is available.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter