Elevated Fire Weather July 16-18, 2019

From the National Weather Service in Riverton, this is the fire weather forecast for July 16 to 18.

This week is looking like a solid return of elevated and possibly even critical fire weather conditions Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday RHs will begin dropping into the mid to low teens in our southern areas with winds hovering around 15 mph and gusting into the 20s.

Wednesday RHs in the teens will push into central Wyoming and wind speeds look to increase greatly. Expect winds sustained in the low 20s with gusts into the 30s.

Thursday will be the most widespread concern as the low RHs reach into Bighorn Basin. Winds look to be just as strong if not slightly stronger on Thursday.

Friday will still see critical RHs but winds appear to greatly diminished which will help alleviate fire weather concerns.

Wildfire activity is starting to pick up. On July 11, the Corbin Fire in Washakie County on July 11 burned approximately 250 acres; the Banjo Fire, also in Washakie County, burned about 165 acres.

If you haven’t begun preparations, now is the time. If you live or have a cabin in Washakie County, contact us for a FREE Wildfire Mitigation Plan for your property. Cost sharing for mitigation activities may be available.

When a Wildfire Threatens

Credit: Image by Valter Cirillo from Pixabay

Here are some important tasks you should do when a wildfire is imminent.

Note that this list assumes you have taken all the steps to make your home or cabin defensible in the event of a wildfire, and you have an evacuation plan (see our previous entry for information on how to put together YOUR evacuation plan).

1. Collect up your pets, and confine them for transport. DO THIS FIRST!

2. Quickly review of your evacuation plan.

3. Make sure all family members know your planned evacuation routes and where to meet up if separated during the evacuation. The location needs to be well-away from the fire.

4. Collect all of your valuable papers, memorabilia, and the evacuation kit that you have previously placed in a location for quick access and removal. You should already have a list and be ready.

5. Make sure gutters, roof, and roof valleys are clear of leaves and dead branches.

6. Remove combustible materials, lawn furniture, doormats, garden accessories, tarps, and other flammable items from decks and around the house and other buildings.

7. Close all doors and windows, including those to the attic and basement, and close pet doors and vents.

8. Remove flammable drapes from windows, and close shutters and blinds.

9. Leave doors and windows unlocked, and disconnect electric garage door openers for firefighter access.

10. If you are leaving any motor vehicles behind, move them to locations well away from structures, and close all of the vehicle doors and windows.

11. Open gates in all wooden and plastic fences, and unlock all access gates.

12. Shut off natural gas, propane, or fuel oil supplies at the source.

13. Obey Evacuation Orders, and evacuate early with your valuable papers, medicine, memorabilia, and pets.

14. On your way out, make sure that your home or cabin address sign is clearly visible.

Only if you have adequate time, and the above jobs are done, consider:

A. Connecting garden hose and filling large containers with water inside and outside.

B. Wetting down vegetation within 30 feet of your home, or turning on sprinklers. So this only if your water supply is adequate.


Wildfire Evacuation Plan

A Wildfire Evacuation Plan is a written plan for safely leaving your home or wildland cabin in the event of an approaching wildfire. It also applies to flooding or other emergencies that may call for evacuation. Examples of each item are shown in bold green; they do not refer to actual locations or people.

1. Designate a primary exit route, with alternatives you can use if the primary route is threatened or closed by fire.

Exit route: Road 23 West to Hwy 155, then south to Big Tree State Park. Alternate: Road 14 East to Hwy 16, then south to Waycross and Big Tree State Park.

2. Determine a specific location for family members to meet after an evacuation. That includes those who might be absent during an evacuation. It should be outside your community, miles away from the home or cabin, and known to all family members. We recommend having a secondary meeting site if roads are closed or the first location is unreachable. Consider including a map of the planned evacuation routes.

Meeting spot: Big Tree State Park.

3. Know the location of important documents and items that you would want to take with you during any evacuation. We recommend keeping them stored together in an easily accessible location.

Important documents & items: The important family documents in the fireproof lockbox in the front hall closet, and the family history and photo albums in the office bookcase.

4. Have a “Disaster Kit” prepared or listed just in case you can’t return to your home or cabin for several days. This should include such things as clothing, toiletries, and prescription medications you would usually take on any weekend trip, plus cell phones and chargers, and family finance provisions, as well as items related to any pets you would be evacuating with you.

Disaster Kit: One set of all-weather clothing, tooth brushes, razors, and prescription medications for each member family member, plus check book, debit & credit cards, $200 cash, and three days of food for Rocket the dog.

5. Have updated emergency contact information for members of the family, both in and outside the group being evacuated.

Contact Information: Uncle Joe @ 555-555-5555, Grandma Lucy @ 555-555-5575, Cousin Suzy email—suzyq88@pmail.net, etc.

6. Keep your potential escape vehicles serviced and fueled during fire season (a good idea any time for those of us living in rural or semi-rural areas).

7. Keep your evacuation plan handy, and share it with any folks staying with you during fire season.

8. Have a posted list of what needs to be done when a wildfire may require an evacuation. That will be the topic of an upcoming Bighorn Basin Firesmart blog.

Effective Hand Piling and Burning

Do you need a burn pile? As promised last week, here are some tips for safe hand piling and burning.

Piling and burning is a simple and cost effective method of disposing of woody debris in rural areas. One key to efficient burning is how well the slash is piled. Below are some suggestions on how to pile slash so you will get a good hot fire that makes burning easy. They also apply to piling with tractors.


Provide plenty of space between piles and structures and/or trees that you do not want damaged. Radiant heat from burning piles can damage or even ignite improvements and scorch trees. Rising heat can scorch overhanging branches.

Consider reusing good pile locations year after year. Burning piles may sterilize the soil, and encourage growth of noxious weeds. By reusing the same pile locations year to year the effect on the soil will be confined to fewer locations.

The best time to burn piles is during the winter when there is a snow cover that is likely to stay on the ground for an extended period. Be sure to locate your burn piles you can find them easily in the snow.


Proper pile construction is essential for efficient burning. Improperly constructed piles can be very difficult to light and may require a lot of handwork to restack and nurse along to get all materials to burn. Well-constructed piles that burn hot and efficiently will also produce significantly less smoke than piles that burn slow. You can place cardboard sheets within the pile to one corner drier to aid in ignition.

Assure a good burn by following these suggestions:

  • Make your piles compact: Compactness is the single, most important factor affecting ignitability and flammability. Dense fuel concentrations contribute to easier and more robust fire growth. Compact piles shed moisture and allow heat to build up, ensuring that the whole pile is consumed. Loosely stacked piles allow snow and moisture to penetrate the pile, and will not hold sufficient heat for ignition and sustained fuel consumption.
  • Stack piles high. Three to five feet is a good height for hand piles. Three feet is a minimum. It is better to combine piles to make them five to six feet in diameter and four to five feet high, rather than to have a lot of small two to three foot piles.
  • Trim long stems and limbs that protrude from the pile, adding the material to the top of the pile. Remember—compact!
  • In open areas, you can construct piles with much larger dimensions where trees or structures will not be threatened. Compactness remains the key characteristic for effectiveness.

Some Effective Methods for Hand Piling

Cross Hatching. This provides an increasingly tight cap and a dry base with each successive layer. Best built with straighter material. Enhance flammability by adding layers of finer material such as pine boughs.


Haystack. Piles like this are a natural result with brushy, limby material including shrubs and conifer bows. Limbs from deciduous trees may be difficult to pile tightly unless they are cut into small pieces that will make a compact pile. Large amounts of conifer limbs/needles provide a good cap to shed snow and rain.


Tepee Piles. These are easy to build and burn well once a fire is established. However, they are not inherently compact and can be difficult to ignite. This technique would be best used where you can build a good compact center/base first using the haystack or cross hatch method then add uniform stems to finish off the tepee.

Other reminders:

Always heed any current open burning restrictions. These are typically in effect during dry times from late spring to fall.

Always inform your County Fire Dispatch office when you are planning to burn your piles.