Firefighters spray a charred tree during the 2015 Cole Creek Fire( Oil City File Photo)

Fire Crews have been kept busy putting out locally-based wildfires, usually in fairly short order. However, during an interview with Oil City on Wednesday, Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Stew Anderson says that they had 14 fires in nearly as many days.

Anderson points out that most wildfires are man-caused. “Power line that surged and popped and sparked, that’s technically man-caused. We’ve had where tires have blown out and those sparks, from a chain or wheel being dragged, have started fires. Fireworks have started fires. As far as lightning-caused, there might have been a couple of those, but the majority are man-caused.”

Even though the county has seen a surge in the amount of wildfires, Anderson says that it’s not cause to redraw strategies for the upcoming 2017 eclipse. “It doesn’t make us rethink our strategy, because from the get-go,that was one of our higher contingencies that we’d planned for.”

The county is served by two fire districts, Casper Mountain Fire District and Natrona County Fire Prevention District. Also operating within the county are several fire departments such as Casper Fire-EMS, Mills Fire Department, Evansville Fire Department, Salt Creek Emergency Services, and Casper Natrona County International Airport. Then on the Federal side, the Bureau of Land Management has firefighting team abilities.

Anderson says that the fire departments and districts have a long history of cooperation, and that they all meet fairly regularly to discuss and coordinate efforts.

August is usually marked as a season for higher risk of wildfire, and Anderson says in contingency plans include adding more people to the theoretical equation. Because of these contingencies, many departments are staffing extra personnel as an precaution.

The Wyoming Eclipse Festival Office is estimating approximately 35,000 people will be in the Casper area from out-of-town.  Currently, the estimates are based on lodging and are accounting for:

  • Approximately 2,700 hotel rooms averaging about 3 people per room.
  • Approximately 900 camp sites, each averaging about 3 people per site.
  • An average of half the homes in Natrona County hosting one person. (approx. 15,000 people)
  • Approximately 10,000 who will not be formally accommodated, including people coming into the county and leaving the same day.

Locals can keep up to date with the latest wildfire, weather, or other emergency management alerts by utilizing the Code Red system.  Code Red is a way to mass communicated recorded messages quickly, and can alert people to weather hazards, evacuations, and other emergency information. The messages come as a text, email, and phone call.  You can sign up for Code Red at the Natrona County Emergency Management Website, or by dropping by the Emergency Managment office.

“We’re planning for a whole lot of people and our number one priority, through all of the eclipse planning and our every day planning, is life-safety,” says Anderson. “Serving the citizens and making sure our services do not stop for citizens or visitors.”