With fire destroying 58 homes last year, hunters urged to use ‘extreme caution’

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CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is urging hunters to “take extreme care when building fires at camp.”

In fall of 2018, a hunter’s abandoned fire started the “Roosevelt Fire” south of Jackson. That fire burned over 61,000 acres and destroyed 58 homes, according to Game and Fish.

“Hot and uncontrolled fall fires, like the Roosevelt, can cause devastating damage to homes and affect hunting seasons and wildlife habitats,” Game and Fish said on Monday, Aug. 12.

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Fall fires have different impacts than spring fires.

“A fall wildfire, with its increased temperature and drier conditions, scorches the soil and sterilizes it to the point that native plants struggle to recover for years,” Game and Fish says. “It creates an environment primed for weeds, like cheatgrass, that are extremely difficult and costly to eradicate.”

Fall fires can also significantly impact hunting access.

“’Some of our hunt areas had to close completely last year as a result of fires in the area,’” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Habitat and Access Branch Chief Ray Bredehoft said. 

Game and Fish says that they and other land management agencies may implement fire bans or restrictions to prevent late summer and fall fires.

“’A fire ban is meant to keep the public safe and protect wildlife habitat,’ Bredehoft said. ‘If there are restrictions on Game and Fish property, they will be posted on the website as they are implemented or lifted.’”

Hunters are encouraged to follow these fire safety practices:

-Never leave a fire unattended

-Clear the ground and remove branches to make sure there is enough clearance below, above and around the fire.

-Avoid building a fire under or at the base of a tree. Fire can burn into roots and smolder for days before becoming a wildfire.

-If it is windy, do not start a warming fire. 

-Keep fires at a manageable size. A large fire requires more work and water to ensure it’s completely out. 

-Drown a fire with plenty of water and dirt. Stir to make sure everything is wet and muddy. If water is not available, stir in cool dirt and smother the fire to remove heat. 

Wyoming Game and Fish Department