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Sublette County

Woman Leads Police On Chase Through Pinedale, Crashes Into Boulder

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Pinedale woman was arrested Wednesday after leading police on a car chase through Pinedale and crashing into a sheriff’s car before driving into a boulder.

Mariah Edwards, 28, was arrested and booked into the Sublette County Detention Center on Wednesday for allegedly driving while under the influence, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, assault on a peace officer, eluding and not wearing a seatbelt.

Sublette County Sheriff’s Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that officers are investigating the possibility that Edwards was under the influence of drugs when she started to flee from officers.

He added that such behavior behind the wheel is generally a bad idea.

“Wyoming, in general, has a higher DUI rate and they’re not a good idea,” Bingham said. “Running from the police puts everyone more at risk and makes things worse in the end.”

No one was injured in the chase.

According to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sublette County dispatchers received a medical call about a person slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle in the parking log of Pinedale’s Best Western Hotel. The reporting party stated that the driver had struck his vehicle.

Sublette County Sheriff’s officers responded to the hotel and when they approached the vehicle, they found a woman behind the wheel. She refused to exit the vehicle or speak with officers.

She then shifted the vehicle into reverse and backed into a tree before driving out of the parking lot at a high rate of speed.

Deputies pursued her through Pinedale. Another deputy was already at the southern end of town and coordinated with fellow deputies to perform a vehicle block.

As the pursuit neared the intersection of Sublette Avenue and Pine Street, the driver accelerated toward the road block and struck the rear driver’s side of the K9 patrol vehicle.

After hitting the vehicle, the car continued moving before crashing into a boulder and coming to rest in a grocery store parking lot.

Edwards, the deputy and the K9 were all taken for medical evaluation at the Pinedale Medical Clinic and released without major injury.

Bingham said he and the rest of the officers were grateful no one, especially their deputy or K9, was injured in the chase.

“We’re glad the impact didn’t happen on the K9 or deputy’s door, but in the back instead,” he said.

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Four Animals Hit on Sublette County Roads in Less Than An Hour; Cow Survives

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

After four animals were hit by vehicles in the span of less than an hour, the Sublette County Sheriff’s office put out a reminder to the public that wildlife this time of year is more likely to be on and around Wyoming’s roads.

“We are at that time of year when animals are migrating, its darker longer and harder to see them. So slow down and give animals a ‘brake’,” the office said in a statement.

Between 5:40am – 6:30am on Tuesday, four animals were struck including two deer, one moose, and a cow. Of those, only the cow survived. No people were injured in the accidents.

“The cow is OK,” Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily. “It walked off. The moose was pretty messed up so they had to put it down. The cow was in good shape, however, with no injuries.”

The spate of vehicle vs. animal accidents in such a short time frame is unusual, Bingham said. But this time of year, motorists should expect to see wildlife on the road, especially between dusk and dawn.

The best way to avoid problems, he said, is to slow down and to stay vigilant.

“Pay particular attention to the barrow ditches on both sides of the road because they can come out of nowhere,” he said.

Although Sublette County does have elevated wildlife crossings and higher fences on some roads to keep wildlife off of busy highways, these could lead motorists to have a false sense of security.

“People think because of the bridges and bigger game fences that the roads will be clear,” Bingham said. “They think animals can’t possibly be on the road, but they still get through.”

Saying that, Bingham did say that the wildlife crossings have made roads safer for both motorists and animals.

“Deer used to get slaughtered through some of these areas,” he said. “So they’ve helped but they still get through.”

Upon approaching wildlife on a highway, sometimes the best strategy is just to apply the brakes and plow into them, he said.

“Swerving into oncoming traffic is a horrible idea because the last thing you want is a head-on,” he said. “And you don’t want to swerve into a ditch either. And you don’t want to lock your breaks with someone right behind you.”

“Sometimes it’s just better to take the hit if you can’t stop and react fast enough rather than to try to swerve,” he said.

Bingham said there have been 128 collisions with wildlife so far this year in Sublette County. Of those accidents, 73% have involved deer. Moose and antelope account for 20% of the accidents.

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Wildfire Smoke Clouds Sublette County Skies, Harming Air Quality

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By: Brady Oltmans, Pinedale Roundup

PINEDALE – The Gulf Coast is underwater leaving millions in southern Louisiana without power. Hurricane Ida has hit the northeast, claiming at least 17 lives. Over 53,000 people have been forced to evacuate tourism hotspot Lake Tahoe as the Caldor Fire has burned close to 200,000 acres. And somewhere in the middle of it all, cozy little Pinedale is covered in smoke.

Following nearly ideal late-summer conditions last weekend, air quality in Pinedale took a severe nosedive late Aug. 30. Smoke from nearly 100 different wildfires across the west wafted into the Wind River Range by then, forcing Pinedale residents to stare at a ruby-red sunset that evening. The following sunrise cast a smoky, nearly post-apocalyptic glow among town.

“This is certainly more smoke certainly than in the most recent years we’ve seen,” Keith Guille of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality said.

A hazy skyline has reoccurred throughout the county this summer, sometimes blocking views of the Wind River and Wyoming ranges altogether. The latest developments could give way to more potentially dangerous circumstances.

At its worst point over the week, between 6 and 9 a.m. on Aug. 31, the AQI (air quality index) registered 160 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s measuring scale, putting it in the upper echelon of United States cities for hazardous air quality. EPA’s AQI scale lists 151-200 as unhealthy and recommends limiting prolonged outdoor exertion in that range. That was the most hazardous the town’s air quality had been measured this summer. Well, so far.

The EPA’s air quality forecast predicted conditions to worsen into early next week with levels estimated to reach 150 around sunset on Sunday. Air quality forecasts show measurements as high as 180 for noon on Sept. 6.

Guille said the Wyoming DEQ doesn’t follow the EPA’s AQI, although it is a helpful guide for the public. The Wyoming DEQ looks at ambient air monitoring, pollutants and particulate matter. They work with the National Weather Service and Department of Health to put out possible air alerts. Despite using different metrics, what the DEQ has seen so far is concerning.

Experts have no doubt wildfires are the culprit. The National Interagency Fire Center based in Boise, Idaho, reported 84 active large fires nationally as of Sept. 2. That didn’t include individual fires within complexes. According to the NIFC’s statistics, those 84 active fires have burned 2,713,387 acres.

Guille said Wyoming’s air quality entirely depends on weather patterns, where those fires are burning and how much smoke results from them.

“The smoke doesn’t stop at borders,” he said. “A lot of the smoke we’re seeing across Wyoming isn’t coming from Wyoming or even neighboring states. The region is experiencing this from multiple fires.”

Ten different states reported large fires on Sept. 2 – Idaho (20 fires), Montana (18), Washington (15), California (14), Oregon (6), Wyoming (4), Minnesota (2), Nevada (2), Colorado (1), Michigan (1) and Utah (1). Wyoming’s four fires were the Crater Ridge Fire, Morgan Creek Fire, Black Mountain Fire and Muddy Slide Fire. As of the Sept. 2 update, the Morgan Creek fire in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests reached 7,509 acres at 24-percent containment. The Crater Ridge Fire in Bighorn National Forest had burned 6,232 acres and was 52-percent contained. The Muddy Slide Fire in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests burned 4,093 acres and was 80-percent contained. The newer Black Mountain Fire in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests had burned 416 acres with no containment.

NFIC statistics showed, as of Sept. 2, there have been 43,168 fires that have burned 4,971,541 collective acres. Both of those figures are the highest year-to-date statistics since 2018 – and surpass the 10-year average year-to-date fire amounts – with a considerable amount of the fire season remaining.

“We’re used to having great air quality across the state and when we do see this it is alarming,” Guille said.

On Aug. 30, the Bureau of Land Management’s High Desert District lifted fire restrictions on all BLM land in Sublette, Sweetwater, Lincoln, Fremont, Teton and Uinta counties. The Bridger-Teton National Forest lifted its fire ban and lowered wildfire risk last week. Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management still advise all to practice wildfire safety.

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New Sheriff’s Deputy For Sublette County Sworn-In; Jails Sister Immediately

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office added a new deputy to its staff on Tuesday.

Honorable Judge Curt Haws held a ceremony to officially welcome a Pinedale 4-year-old named Noel to the crime-fighting unit.

Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily that a number of citizens had seen Noel driving his mini Police Power Wheel around town and soon thereafter the department decided to deputize him.

“We appreciate these opportunities to connect with youth in positive way around our community. It’s refreshing to see kids interested in law enforcement as they are our future leaders and one day will be protecting this same community,” Bingham said.

One of Noel’s first acts as a deputy was to jail his sister.

Noel was photographed handcuffing her and walking his sister to a cell.

Noel appears to be a friendly law enforcement officer as his sister was allowed to have a lollipop during her processing.

Also present for the swearing-in ceremony, but offering no comment, was a stuffed animal.

Sublette County Sheriff KC Lehr pinned an honorary badge on Noel’s uniform with multiple SCSO personnel present. During the ceremony the Honorable Judge Haws stated “It’s wonderful to be part of something positive”.

“We thank Noel for stopping by and taking interest in law enforcement, we wish him well in the future as he will undoubtedly continue to patrol the streets of Sublette County,” Bingham said.

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Woman Breaks Fremont Lake Open Swim Record

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By The Pinedale Roundup

PINEDALE – Minutes turned into hours as Paige Book kicked and dipped her arms into Fremont Lake’s deep clear water, propelling herself across the lake’s nine-mile-plus length. Book’s goal, Sandy Beach, lay miles away, invisible in the vast expanse of open water.

Exhaustion, aches, pains and anxiety competed for space in Book’s mind. Rather than allow the debilitating thoughts to overwhelm her mind, Book turned her attention to the lake.

Massive granite boulders, billions of years old, surround the lake. Thick pines dating back centuries dotted the slopes. Peaks towered in the distance, shoved skyward by colossal earthquakes 25 to 30 million years ago.

“I got to share time with something ancient,” Book said. “I spent a lot of time thinking about how long the lake is going to be there and has been there and how long my life is and how small I am in comparison to the lake.”

The still water plummets more than 600 feet in the U-shaped valley formed by retreating glaciers.

“When you’re looking down in crystal clear water, you’re thinking, ‘How far am I seeing right now?’ I contemplated what life could be below.”

Taking in Fremont Lake’s natural wonders eliminated the ticking clock in Book’s head.

“I was not really aware of time because I’ve never swam that far,” she said. “I’ve done triathlons, but definitely nothing as long as Fremont Lake. I didn’t have a clock in my mind, thinking, ‘Oh gosh, when is this going to be over?’ I was just relishing in how beautiful the lake was and enjoying my time out there.”

Book’s friends, Brandon and Joshua, escorted her in kayaks. They shouted out when she reached the halfway point.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow – I’m already halfway done,” Book said. “‘What a bummer! I want this to last longer.’ But then you remind yourself you have plenty of swimming left.”

Brandon and Joshua tracked the passing time down to the second. Seven miles into the swim, Book’s friends realized she was approaching the last stretch timing in well under five hours.

Fremont Lake’s open-water record set by Pinedale’s David Rule in 2016 was within Book’s grasp.

“With about two miles left, the people crewing for me were telling me that I had an hour-and-a-half to swim two miles to beat the record,” Book said.

Fighting fatigue, Book decided to go for it. She dug deep and sped up her pace.

“I was definitely feeling like I was pushing myself, like I could hold on,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘Wow, I’m amazed I can swim this far.’”

Five hours, 5 minutes and 10 seconds after plunging into the lake on Monday, Aug. 2, Book completed the swim across one of the country’s oldest, and deepest, lakes. She beat Rule’s record by nearly 25 minutes.

“It’s going to take some time for me to soak that in,” Book said. “I felt really proud of myself and was surprised by how fast I could swim.”

A tired, weather-beaten cyclist stumbled into a Pinedale shop frequented by John Kelly on a late spring day.

“I first met Paige three years ago when she stopped for coffee in the middle of a solo bike ride from Oregon, where she had just finished a college degree in environmental studies,” Kelly recalled.

Kelly and Book realized they shared an affinity for swimming and the outdoors. Kelly talked about his experience swimming Fremont Lake. In 2011, Kelly swam the roughly nine miles to Sandy Beach in 6 hours, 37 minutes. He braved the cold without a wetsuit.

Kelly inspired other swimmers and was thrilled to share the experience with them. He guided Rule on his record-breaking swim in 2016 and the two swam the length again in 2017.

Kelly saw potential in Book. He invited the cyclist to stay an extra day in Pinedale to visit Sacred Rim.

Book caught her first glimpse of Fremont Lake on the drive to Elkhart Park. The idea to swim the lake crossed her mind more than once.

“Fremont Lake – as soon as you see it, you’re in awe,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

Book returned to Pinedale last summer and stayed a full week. Between excursions into the Winds Rivers, Book ran into Kelly at the same coffee shop.

“We talked about the lake again,” she said. “It kind of re-sparked the idea in my mind. I asked John, ‘Do you think I could do it?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely.’”

Book returned to Steamboat Springs where she worked as a waitress, determined to tackle Fremont Lake the following summer.

She hit the indoor pool in Steamboat over the winter, racking up thousands of laps. When the weather warmed, Book swam in a reservoir, practicing in a wetsuit and learning how to establish a line of sight in open water.

During the weeks leading up to the big swim, Brook swam laps at least two hours a day, five days a week.

Kelly guided Book through the process, checking in with her monthly.

“In addition to discussions of frequency, duration and intensity, my primary guidance was to follow your joy, listen to your body and approach the swim with respect and reverence,” Kelly said.

Book is no stranger to open water.

“I did swimming for a few years in high school,” she said. “I’m from California, so I spent a lot of my time in the ocean where my mom taught me to swim.”

Book is unfazed by towering whitecaps and sea creatures lurking in the deep. Cold water is another story.

Book visited Kelly and met Rule several months before the swim across Fremont Lake.

“When I was last in Pinedale – it was around May 2 – the lake was still frozen,” Book said. “The most intimidating thing was thinking about the cold.”

Kelly set August as the date for the swim when the lake is a few more degrees above freezing.

Book, Rule and Kelly spent the day before the swim plotting out the course. The lake seemed endless, stretching deep into the Wind Rivers.

“John drove us up (Skyline Drive) and we looked at the lake from a few different viewpoints,” Book said. “It was intimidating. You can’t see the whole lake at once. You look to the right, and you see a portion of the beginning of the lake. You look to your left, and you can barely imagine the beach at the end. I definitely had some nervous thoughts.”

Kelly arranged with Audrey Odermann at Lakeside Lodge to rent a pontoon boat bright and early on Aug. 2. He ferried Book and Rule across Fremont Lake as the sun rose above the eastern ridge.

Book and Rule waded into the lake and dove in. Pinedale’s notoriously moody weather cooperated and the water was smooth and clear – almost welcoming.

“I never got too cold, which I’m surprised to say,” Book recalled. “My friends had a blanket waiting for me on the beach, but I didn’t need it. I wore a full body wetsuit and I was full of adrenaline, so I think that was a factor.”

Kelly kept watch from the pontoon boat with Shalesa Harber and her children Elliette, Agnes and Baines. Weather reports predicted storms. Instead, they subsided to history.

“We were very lucky,” Kelly said. “The weather was amazing.”

The swim passed by more quickly than Book expected. Boulders came into view, marking the approach to Sandy Beach. Ecstatic, cheering friends and family emerged on the shore.

“John’s definitely been the anchor for me in this experience,” Book said. “My mom showing up to watch and my dad coming the day before was just epic. My friends and my boyfriend Gib were so supportive and believed in me.”

Kelly said Book hit the water like a pro.

“During the swim, Paige’s long preparation was apparent,” he said. “Her stroke was precise and relaxed, and her endurance was very well-developed.”

For Kelly, helping another young person achieve a remarkable feat was reward enough.

“It was my dream to crew for Paige and David,” he said. “It was the best day in my life.”

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Sublette County Experiences Drop In Initial Census Count

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By Brady Oltmans, Pinedale Roundup

Sublette County’s estimated population fell by 4 percent, according to the latest numbers published along with the first 2020 Census results.

According to the initial findings released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Wyoming’s total residential population grew by 13,225 people, or just 2.3 percent of its population. 

By contrast, that was the seventh-slowest growth rate in the country over the Census’ analyzed time frame of April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2020.

It was noted throughout the state that the 2.3-percent rise was the smallest population growth rate for the state since the 1980s.

For Sublette specifically, estimations stated the county lost about 413 people in the same 10-year period.

Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, said the state’s two largest contributing factor for that growth rate were natural increase and derived net migration.

Liu shared information with the Roundup that showed the annual Census estimate in 2019 was about 1,900 more people than the actual Census count. Sublette experienced population declines from 2013 to 2017, attributing for the 4-percent drop between 2010 and 2019.

“The net-out migration for those years was obvious due to the downturn of the energy industry,” Liu told the Roundup. “You may be able to expect that the 2020 Census result for Sublette will be somewhat close to the estimate though it’s possibly they deviate quite a bit due to its small size.”

Wyoming experienced about 25,000 more births than deaths during that time but a tabulated 11,800 more residents left the state than migrated to it during that 10-year span.

Liu contributed the exodus of the state due to the downturn in the energy industry dating back to mid-June 2014. Wyoming lost a third of its mineral extraction industry payroll jobs in 2015 and 2016 alone.

Those energy-sector jobs were largely responsible for Sublette’s population drop. It’s estimated 1,008 people left Sublette between 2010 and 2019, more than offsetting the 599 more births than deaths in the county.

“Change in employment always tends to drive and lead the change in migration for Wyoming, and generally speaking, people tend to move to areas where economics are vibrant,” Liu said in a statement. “In addition, the economy nationwide, particularly in neighboring states such as Colorado, Utah and Idaho, showed strong expansions, which attracted many Wyoming energy workers and residents during the second half of the decade.”

Utah and Idaho experienced the two largest growth rates in the country, according to initial Census findings. Utah’s growth registered 18.4 percent while Idaho measured an estimated 17.3 percent. 

Colorado grew by a Census-estimated 14.5 percent. Census results have long-reaching impacts, including an immediate impact on congressional appointment totals for each state.

For example, Colorado’s growth put it above a threshold for another U.S. House of Representative member, along with Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Texas was the only state that will receive two more votes in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade based upon the findings released earlier this week. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all lost seats.

And each person’s responses and participation in the Census mattered, as explained by Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert on the congressional appointments.

She said earlier this week that New York would not have lost its seat if the state had 89 more residents. Instead, that seat went to Minnesota.

The Census findings were delayed for multiple reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple lawsuits pertaining to the Census in the last year of the Trump administration. 

There are two ongoing lawsuits – one in Alabama, one in Ohio – relating to the Census that could further delay its demographic data, which the Census Bureau stated is scheduled to be released Aug. 16. 

New restricting data was due by the end of March but those lawsuits complicate the  timing. 

For example, the Alabama lawsuit is attempting to stop the bureau from keeping personal information in anonymized census data confidential, and a ruling in the state’s favor would delay findings by months. 

The new Electoral College map, with new votes and adjusted Congressional map, will go into effect beginning with the 2024 election.

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Sublette County Gets New K9 And Dog Body Armor

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office has a new furry colleague joining its ranks, taking over for a K9 officer that died in November, the organization announced this week.

On Tuesday, the office introduced K9 Frankie to the world as the newest member of its agency. Frankie is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois from Mexico.

The dog has been training with Deputy Krystal Mansur, who will be her handler. Frankie has been trained to detect illegal drugs.

Frankie is taking over for the office’s late K9 Tonka, who passed away in November.

“Deputy Mansur described her partner as the best, sweet, loving, dog with a great nose and loved to work,” Sergeant Travis Bingham said. “She went on to say (Frankie’s) two favorite things were finding drugs, and her ball.”

In addition to bringing Frankie on board, the office received a donation of body armor for its newest teammate.

The bullet and stab-proof vest comes from the nonprofit organization, Vested Interest in K9s, which provides these type of vests to law enforcement and related agency animals.

Frankie’s vest was embroidered with the sentiment “In memory of K9 Ike, Vancouver Police Department.”

Since its inception in 2009, Vested Interest has provided more than 4,210 vests to K9 officers in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, financed by both private and corporate donations.

Each vest has a value of $1,744 to $2,283, weighs an average of 4 to 5 pounds, and comes with a five-year warranty.

The program provides vests for U.S. dogs at least 20 months old that are actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies.

There are an estimated 30,000 K9 officers in the United States.

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Sublette County School District No Longer Requiring Masks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Pinedale schools are no longer requiring students, staff or board members to wear masks on any of their campuses.

Sublette County School District No. 1 posted on its social media site Sunday that the new rule would take effect on Monday. The district’s schools consist of the elementary, middle and high school in Pinedale.

“Simply stated, no student, staff member or visitor to the district will be required to wear a mask,” the district said.

Gov. Mark Gordon ended the statewide mask mandate on March 16, but his order continues to require the use of masks in public schools.

The decision by Sublette County school trustees to defy Gordon’s order was made during the district’s board of trustees meeting on March 11, when the board passed a motion to eliminate school SMART Start Plans and follow the minimum guidelines set by state public health officers.

However, the motion made an exception for health orders on masks in schools and lifted the requirements.

“The Board would also like to make it explicitly clear that this action does not prohibit wearing a mask by anyone who wishes to do so, and the Board expects all students, staff, parents and community members to respect everyone who chooses to do so,” the district said on social media.

Gordon said his decision to lift the public health orders in place for months reflected the state’s continually improving health metrics and is consistent with his approach of balancing public health with protecting livelihoods.

“I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic,” Gordon said. “It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward. I ask all Wyoming citizens to continue to take personal responsibility for their actions and stay diligent as we look ahead to the warmer months and to the safe resumption of our traditional spring and summer activities.” 

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Sublette County Sheriff Releases Footage Of Daring Rescue In Icy Water

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released the body camera footage of the rescue of a man and two dogs trapped inside a truck that crashed into the Green River this weekend.

In the video, one of the officers can be heard talking with the man in the truck, assuring him that more medical and emergency personnel were on their way. The truck is submerged in the river and can be seen slowly sinking deeper and deeper.

“Just keep talking to me,” the officer yells to the driver. “Do you have any injuries?”

The man can be heard saying something back to her, but it is unclear what he is saying.

She tells the driver to continue talking to her and asks if there is anyone else in the vehicle with him, but the officer can’t hear what he is saying.

The rescue occurred after Sublette County officials received a call at about 10 p.m. Sunday about a truck in the Green River near Reardon Draw.

Deputies and other medical personnel immediately responded, along with Tip Top Search and Rescue, as the vehicle was reportedly partially submerged in the icy water with the driver still inside.

Around three minutes into the video, which was edited for brevity’s sake, ambulance and fire personnel arrive on the scene.

“Try to move to the back of the truck. Pick your head up, let me see you,” the officer tells the man in the truck.

About a minute later, the officer tells her colleagues that she can see the driver with her flashlight. Around five minutes into the video, the man can be seen climbing out of the back window of the truck.

“It’s so cold,” he can be heard saying while standing in the back of the truck.

“We’ve got you, we’ll get you out. I’ve got blankets here,” the officer responds, adding that there is a dog in the vehicle.

She then offers up a rope to firefighters on the scene, who then form a line to offer the man an extension, as well as pull him to safety.

The driver is briefly seen at the end of the video, before being taken to medical personnel.

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Sublette County Officers, Search And Rescue Save Man and Two Dogs From Icy Water

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and Tip Top Search and Rescue Team announced on Tuesday that they rescued a person and two dogs from icy water over the weekend.

Around 10 p.m. on Sunday, a call came into Sublette County dispatch about a truck in the Green River near Reardon Draw, according to a news release.

Deputies and other medical personnel immediately responded, along with Tip Top Search and Rescue, as the vehicle was reportedly partially submerged in the icy water with the driver still in it.

TipTop volunteers certified and trained in both ice rescue and swift water rescue responded with their gear.

Prior to the arrival of the Swift water team, SCSO deputies and Sublette County Unified Fire safely assisted the driver out of the vehicle using a ladder which extended from the ice built up next to the bank to the bed of the truck.

Tip Top members were then tasked with the rescue of two dogs still in the cab. After several attempts, the search and rescue team was able to bring both dogs to safety.

It took several attempts to attach a winch to the truck’s frame, as it was completely under water by this point, and a second tow truck was called in to help pull the vehicle out of the water.

It was not clear how long it took the pull the truck out of the water, but according to the release, the mission was completed safely.

The driver was taken to the Pinedale Medical Clinic to be evaluated.

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Sublette County Health Officer Requests Countywide Mask Mandate

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Sublette County Health Officer Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons has asked for state approval to institute a face mask mandate in Sublette County.

In a letter posted on the Sublette Covid-19 Response Group site on Thursday, Fitzsimmons acknowledged that his decision may not be a popular one with everyone in the rural county, but he could not “ignore the gravity of the situation” that citizens of the county face with the virus.

“Sublette County lacks medical equipment and resources to treat serious cases of Covid-19 and options to transport seriously ill patients are greatly diminishing as regional hospitals are nearing or exceeding their capacity to accept patients suffering from Covid-19,” Fitzsimmons wrote.

The mere request to wear masks was not producing results, he said. 

“Therefore additional mandates are necessary to protect the health and safety of Sublette County residents,” he wrote. 

The mandate would require the use of face masks for indoor spaces in Sublette County, as well as a prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

“I have listened to and carefully weighed the arguments against mandatory mask orders,” he wrote. “But, on balance, the public health benefits in reducing the spread of this virus by wearing face masks and limiting the size of gatherings heavily outweigh other considerations.”

In contrasting the use of masks in schools, where it is mandated, against the rest of the county, Fitzsimmons noted there have been no “major outbreaks” in the schools because of the mask-wearing.

“The danger lies with the rest of the community where mask-wearing is not widespread,” he said.

Fitzsimmons warned residents that hospitals in Utah — where ill Sublette County residents are generally taken — may not be available because of the coronavirus surge in the area.

“The University of Utah medical center . . . has declared that they will likely be required to ration medical services under ‘crisis standards of care’ protocol, resulting in medical care being provided to only those patients most likely to survive, leaving many elderly patients to die from COVID-19,” he said.

Sublette County is the only county in Wyoming which does not have a hospital and has no ability to provide inpatient care for its citizens.

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Sublette County Sheriff Mourns Loss Of K9 Officer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office lost a beloved members of its team this week when K9 officer Tonka passed away.

The sheriff’s office announced the passing of Tonka on Wednesday. Tonka was partnered with SCSO Deputy Krystal Mansur last November, working closely by her ever since.

Tonka was trained as a narcotics detecting canine and was very effective in her work, according to the sheriff’s office.

“Deputy Mansur described her partner as the best, sweet, loving, dog with a great nose and loved to work,” Sergeant Travis Bingham said. “She went on to say her two favorite things were finding drugs, and her ball.”

It was recently discovered that Tonka was battling a rare, fatal kidney disease. She was put to sleep on Monday surrounded by her coworkers, friends and Mansur.

“There is an incredible bond between canine handler and their dog,” the post said. “Please keep Deputy Mansur, her family and the Sheriff’s Office in your thoughts as we navigate this very difficult loss to our agency.”

This isn’t a unique story to Wyoming, but it is just as heartbreaking as all of them.

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Sublette County Search And Rescue Sees Death, Multiple Lost Over Labor Day Weekend

in News/Recreation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Sublette County volunteer search and rescue team Tip Top had a busy holiday weekend responding to a number of calls, according to a Facebook post this week by one of the all-volunteer force’s members.

The action began Saturday with a call from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office asking for assistance with a climbing fatality on Pingora Peak. A woman climber fell approximately 400 feet off of the South Buttress.

The precursor to the Labor Day storm was bringing strong winds to the area, so members of Tip Top’s short haul team had to carefully work their way into the Cirque of Towers to drop off two members to assess and assist the fallen climber and her partner.

Although Tip Top members performed CPR for more than half an hour, the climber had succumbed to her injuries from the fall and was pronounced dead at the scene. Due to strong winds in the area, the decision was ultimately made to wait until the early hour of Sunday to retrieve the woman’s body.

On Sunday, the team successfully loaded the climber into a transport and rendezvoused with Fremont County officials.

Late Saturday night, Tip Top volunteers received reports of two separate cases of altitude sickness in the mountains of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Both of the people were ill and unable to walk out of the forest due to exhaustion and dehydration.

Late Sunday evening, another person reported experiencing altitude sickness and was unable to walk from the Dad’s Lake area due to extreme illness and dehydration. Tip Top team members were flown in Monday to assess the man’s condition and he was ultimately flown to the Pinedale Medical Clinic.

On Tuesday, two emergency calls came in from separate parties who needed to be rescued from the aftermath of the wind and snowstorm on Monday.

“The aftermath of the storm would present many challenges for the SAR team and plans changed hourly as more information was gathered of the damage the wind had created in the tree-covered access trails,” the post said.

One hiker’s tent was shredded by the wind, leaving him exposed to snow, ice and low temperatures. The other call was from a father and daughter on horses near Crescent Lake who became concerned for their safety during the night with the intense winds.

At this time, trails became impassable due to trees being knocked down. So a 10-person team was assembled early Tuesday to access the wilderness boundary near Wolf Lake.

The hiker with the shredded tent was found alive midday Tuesday, although extremely cold.

The father/daughter team later turned their emergency message back to “OK,” but a helicopter later saw a man with a string of horses on Scab Creek Trail. The trail was blocked by a number of downed trees around him.

His daughter made her way down the trail and was ultimately reunited with her father, and the entire party got out of the mountains.

The helicopter was also used by the Fremont County sheriff to rescue nine individuals stranded due to snow and low temperatures. After three trips, all nine were recovered.

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Good News: Sublette County Heroes Save Dog Who Fell Through Ice on Lake

in News/dogs
SCSO Deputy rescues stranded dog in Fremont Lake 3-31-20

(Pinedale, Wyo –April 2nd, 2020) SCSO Deputy rescues stranded dog in Fremont Lake.Tuesday, March 31st at approximately 1:15pm, Sublette County Dispatch received a call of a dog who had fallen through the ice into Fremont Lake just outside of Pinedale. Sublette County Deputies, Wyoming Highway Patrol and Tip Top Search and Rescue responded immediately to assist.Once on scene responders found the dog approximately 40 yards off shore and the dog holding onto the edge of the ice in a hole approximately 10 foot across. According to the reporting party the dog had been in the water approximately 30 minutes. Deputy Morgan approached the dog with caution and was able to crawl across the ice to the dog. He was then able to successfully pull the dog safely out of the water without incident.The dog was very happy to be free from the cold water and was returned to its owner who was anxiously awaiting on shore.###Sergeant Travis BinghamPublic Information OfficerSublette County Sheriff's Office35 1/2 S. Tyler Ave, PO Box 701Pinedale, WY 82941tbingham@subso.comOffice 307.367.5236Cell 307-360-7737

Posted by Sublette County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, April 2, 2020

We’ll take this story every single day.

A dog fell through some ice on Fremont Lake just outside of Pinedale on Monday.

Authorities were notified and the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, Wyoming Highway Patrol and Tip Top Search and Rescue responded to save the dog.

According to the sheriff’s office, the dog was about 40 yards offshore and holding onto the edge of the ice in a hole approximately 10 feet across.

The sheriff’s office reported that the dog had been in the water approximately 30 minutes.

Sublette County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Morgan approached with caution and was able to crawl across the ice to the dog. He was then able to successfully pull the dog safely out of the water without incident.

“The dog was very happy to be free from the cold water and was returned to its owner who was anxiously awaiting on shore,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post.

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The Value of Rural Subdivisions

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Agriculture
Sublette County

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Private ranches help to preserve open space and wildlife habitat, while urban dwelling condenses the size of the human imprint on the landscape. These benefits are readily understood, but the importance of rural subdivisions to local communities is often overlooked.

Rural subdivisions suffer from love/hate status. While many residents hate to see fragmentation of rural land, many other people dream of living on a few acres outside of town. They love the freedom offered by rural living, including raising their children with more outdoor space, and having animals that would be prohibited by municipal living. The large percentage of government land ownership in Wyoming serves to make land use planning for private property all the more critical since energy development on public land can cause a large influx of people in need of housing, yet the burden for providing housing falls to the limited amount of private land available.

Nearly half of Wyoming is managed by the federal government, and Wyoming continues to maintain its status as having the lowest human population of any state in the union. With our traditional public lands-based boom-and-bust energy cycle comes tremendous ebbs and flows in our human population. Sublette County is a prime example. With less than 6,000 residents in the county in 2000, the county boomed to a high of 10,476 people by 2012, with most of this growth associated with net migration due to energy development. With the energy bust, the county population declined more than 6 percent by 2019, to just over 9,800 people.

With the bust, Sublette County lost about 663 residents from its peak population. By 2017, 46 percent of Sublette County’s housing units were classified as vacant. That’s a startlingly high vacancy rate, but Sublette County has long been known for its hosting of “second” homes to people living outside the county. About 68 percent of the county’s vacant units are for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use (second homes), and 15 percent of the county’s vacant units are for rent or sale. But another 15 percent (428 homes) are classified as “other” vacant, which means they are not for sale or rent, or otherwise available to the marketplace. According to the Wyoming Community Development Authority, “These units may be problematic if concentrated in certain areas, and may create a ‘blighting’ effect.”

Although we lost more than 660 residents, what we see now is that some of the people who moved to Sublette County to work in the gas fields have decided to stay; either hanging on to what energy jobs are available, or finding other ways to make a living. They may have moved here for the boom, but have determined to stay for other reasons, despite the economic downturn. While some of these residents live in town, and some have constructed homes on large acreages, most often I see their presence reflected in rural subdivisions. They have greenhouses, art studios, vegetable gardens, and chicken coops. The kids learn to ride bicycles on dirt driveways; they construct primitive forts in their yards; and they go out into the pasture to “camp” in the summer. They wade in irrigation ditches on hot days, ride incessant laps on snow machines and dirt bikes, and feed calves, pigs, and lambs for show at the county fair.

Most of these families have animals – cats and dogs, chickens and other fowl, small and large livestock, and horses – and all of these animals require both space and food. Since the acreages are too small to be self-sustaining for their domestic animals, animal feedstuffs must be purchased and brought in, which adds to the local economy. I drive by a busy feedstore across from a rural subdivision every time I drive to town.

Although some decry rural subdivision of land for its scarring of the landscape and harm to nature, I maintain that for these rural residents, they are living as close to nature (blemished though it may be) as they possibly can. Their animals are what connect them to the land, and when the jobs that brought them here may go elsewhere, it is the land and animals that keep them here.

While some may notice the horses standing in a dirt-packed corral, I see that the horse owners have corralled the horses to give their limited pasture time to rest and grow. I see those horses loaded for roping competitions, fairs and rodeos, for family pack trips and hunting adventures, and for kids to ride bareback on the vast public lands nearby, where the kids climb off to explore horned toads and other wonders of nature that surround them.

While some see rural sprawl, I notice the installation of flowerbeds, scattered wildflowers over septic systems, and boxes lovingly crafted for bats, bluebirds, and kestrels. I see people who have taken some level of food security into their own hands, raising animals to provide meat for the freezer, and living and learning about the cycle of life and death, and knowing where their food comes from.

All forms of living have both societal and environmental impacts (negative and positive), but rural subdivisions are often maligned. This view fails to recognize that people can be drawn to our communities with properties in rural subdivisions, and these rural ranchettes can serve as anchors that connect communities while supporting local economies.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

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