RIVERTON, Wyo. — Someone flicked a cigarette butt into a tree line last weekend at Grannier Meadows, nearly sparking a major fire in Shoshone National Forest. Flames grew and started to lick at a tree before alert Forest Service workers put it out.
The workers found the cigarette butt at the fire's origin, among pine needles and duff.
The incident at a camping ground south of Louis Lake was just one of many involving fire in the Shoshone Forest in Fremont County this summer.
Forest district manager Steve Schacht says crews have been dousing 10 to 15 improperly extinguished campfires every weekend. That's a problem, given that there are about 400 campsites to monitor throughout the Loop Road complex in the Southern Wind Rivers.
"We've been fairly lucky we haven't had large wildfires," Schacht said. "We had small ones, a tenth to a quarter acre that didn't escape."
Three wildfires are burning in the Shoshone National Forest. All on the northern side of the preserve, closer to Cody than to Lander. One was declared contained on Tuesday.
Wet weather this week has dampened the threat, for now. Schacht said peak fire danger typically is from early to mid-August, with a combination of higher temperatures, lower humidity and abundant fuels.
One key element: Campers properly putting out their campfires.
"People don't put their fires out properly, which requires it to be dead out with water," Schacht said. "A lot of people just leave it with embers." Winds take those embers into fuels outside fire rings. Hot coals can stay hot for hours, even after a fire seems out.
Schacht recommended pouring a couple gallons of water on the embers and stirring to ensure the fire is completely extinguished.