CASPER, Wyo. — In most Wyoming counties, folks likely are relishing the blooming trees and green grass. But in Crook County, officials see potential wildfire.
In early April, after local firefighting crews doused 15 blazes — including one greater than 20 acres and six greater than five acres — the Crook County Commission passed a ban on fireworks and open burning, except under certain conditions.
The ban went into effect April 15 and continues through Oct. 31 in the county in Wyoming's northeast corner.
In the unincorporated county, fireworks are banned unless they are for public display and a county permit is issued. Trash fires, charcoal fires and campfires are allowed but limited to certain times of day -- in areas cleared of brush and with fire-extinguishing equipment on hand.
“It’s earlier this year than usual,” said Katie Allen, public information officer for fire and emergency management in Crook County. “Even with the snow we got in April.”
Last year, the fire ban in Crook County began in May. The year before that, it was in August, she said.
“We had our biggest fire season ever last year, with over 350 fires,” Allen said. “With a department run by volunteers, it was really, really rough.”
The county fire warden and commissioners hope the volunteer firefighters won’t be overwhelmed thanks to the early ban, Allen said.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, water in the northern portion of the Belle Fourche River — which winds through Crook County — was above 90 percent of its normal flow as of May 6. The conservation service considers the average of the past 30 years as normal.
In the southern portion of the Belle Fourche, the flow is 75 to 90 percent of average.
State Forester Bill Crapser said he didn't know of any other counties currently under fire bans.