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Hundreds of Colorado wildfire evacuees return to homes

A man walks along Lake Hattie in the haze from the Badger Creek Fire June 15 in Albany County. 

LARAMIE — The Badger Creek Fire, which consumed roughly 21,000 acres of land in June, should be a strong warning to the residents near U.S. Forest Service lands of the need to engage in fire prevention activities, Albany County Commissioners said Tuesday.

The fire destroyed only one house but threatened many others, and Commissioner Heber Richardson said the fire should bring the need for pro-active fire prevention measures and should “be on the forefront” of the minds of residents who live near Medicine Bow forests.

The fire began June 10 just 2 miles northwest of the Mountain Home subdivision and grew to 11,000 acres within 72 hours of igniting.

In July, employees for the Wyoming State Forestry Division credited the 339 acres of fuel breaks created in 2011 and 2012 with saving houses in the Mountain Home subdivision.

Richardson said such measures are a lot cheaper to enact than suppressing rampant wildfires.

“Sometimes, people locally don’t care because the money comes from a budget they don’t see,” Richardson said.

By the end of July, the Badger Creek Fire cost $12 million to suppress.

The thinning treatments used almost a decade ago cost $1,000 per acre.

The new Landscape Vegetation Analysis project being produced for the Medicine Bow National Forest should help the U.S. Forest Service better manage the forest vegetation, Medicine Bow Forest Supervisor Russ Bacon said.

Bacon said he’s “really excited with the product” he thinks will provide “15 years of fantastic opportunity to restore the Medicine Bow.”

A comment period for the draft environmental impact statement for the LaVA project is set to end Aug. 20.

Bacon said the Badger Creek First helps “make the good case of why LaVA is important.”

The project would aim to remove beetle-killed timber while it’s still marketable and prescribe treatments based on mandatory field reviews.

Now that the Badger Creek Fire has been quashed, Bacon said his crews will work to reduce the closure ahead of hunting season.

The fire ban instituted on Forest Service land in Albany County will also continue to be re-evaluated in coming weeks.

“The last round of moisture has helped to take the edge off,” Bacon said.

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