There are three notable wildfires burning in Wyoming, marking an early start to what could be an active fire season.
State officials predict that the state is at an average to high risk for fires throughout June and into July, and at above-average risk from mid-July into August.
“In most years, we don’t start seeing larger fires until July,” said Bill Crapser, the state forester.
The largest of the three is the Skull Creek Fire, which is currently at around 1,000 acres and burning six miles north of Osage in rural Weston County. Pre-evacuation orders were put into effect in the area.
This fire was 30% contained as of Thursday evening, and firefighters were “cautiously optimistic,” Crapser said.
The second-largest blaze is the 100-acre Robinson Fire in Johnson County, southwest of Buffalo. And the third is the less than 100-acre North Fork Fire near the Colorado border.
Despite their smaller sizes, officials are worried about the Robinson and North Fork fires because they’re in inaccessible areas. Windy conditions were also expected Thursday.
“If you look at the predictive services … we’re looking at probably on the high end of normal for fire danger and fire potential for the rest of June and into July,” Crapser said at a news conference Thursday. “Looks like an ... above-normal fire season for Wyoming for the second half of July and for all of August.”
With large fires expected, officials feel secure in the resources they have to pay for the firefighting.
“I think we’re OK money-wise, and we’ll see how the year goes, but I think we’re positioned well,” said Jacque Buchanan, deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Region Two.
For context, 2012 was a record-setting fire season in Wyoming, and the state started seeing large fires in mid-to-late May. So while 2021 is seeing an early start to fire season here, it’s not out of the norm.
“It is incredible this summer how dangerous these fire conditions are,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at the same Thursday news conference. “If you haven’t taken and established that fire defensible perimeter around your house, you will lose it.”
As the climate warms, communities across the West are grappling with increasingly active fire seasons. Wyoming hasn’t been hit as hard as some states such as Oregon, which experienced a wildfire season last year that consumed 1.1 million acres and more than 4,000 homes while killing nine people, according to The Associated Press.
Still, Wyoming did experience its largest wildfire in recent memory last year. The Mullen Fire burned 177,000 acres in southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest. The flames destroyed 32 homes and 34 outbuildings.
Wyoming is experiencing drought conditions in most of the state, enough so that Gordon’s office this week launched a new website for the public to monitor the situation. Parts of south central and northeastern Wyoming are experiencing extreme drought,
Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis