CHEYENNE – It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s July in Wyoming. The summer is a great time to be outside in nature, but those enjoying the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMAs) and Public Access Areas (PAAs) can help prevent wildfires from starting. WHMAs and PAAs are not public lands, rather they are owned or leased by the Commission and managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on their behalf. These WHMAs and PAAs are meant to support wildlife and provide access opportunities for the public. Users can check on activities available at each area, and being aware of fire rules and restrictions is crucial.
Ray Bredehoft, chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Habitat and Access Branch said the mid-summer hot and dry climate only increases the possibilities of fires caused by campfires not only at WHMAs and PAAs but on all lands open to the public in the state.
“An action as simple as leaving a campfire’s warm ashes or littering a still-smoldering cigarette can cause a fire on the landscape. In July and August, they can grow quickly,” said Bredehoft. “Remaining cautious with anything that has an open flame or can burn, including stoves, matches and lighters to name a few, is extremely important for Wyoming’s habitat and wildlife.”
Campfires, stoves and other incendiary camping supplies are permitted on WHMAs as long as there are no restrictions or a fire ban in place. Campers must ensure the place they choose to have a fire does not threaten, cause damage to, or burn any property on the WHMA, and must always remain under control.
“Campfires need to be attended at all times and completely extinguished,” said Bredehoft. “This includes smoking materials like cigarettes.”
Littering and fireworks are not permitted on WHMAs. Campers and day users should review all regulations for WHMAs on the Game and Fish website before setting up camp.
To ensure a campfire is completely extinguished, campers need to have plenty of water on hand. To make sure a fire is out:
- Allow wood to burn completely to ash.
- Pour lots of water on the fire to drown all embers.
- Pour water until the hissing sound stops.
- Scrape sticks and logs to remove any embers.
- Stir the ashes and embers with a shovel until everything is wet and cold to the touch.
Game and Fish lands in Goshen County are currently under a partial fire ban impacting Springer, Table Mountain and Rawhide WHMAs, as well as Packers Lake and North Platte River Public Access Areas. Under a partial ban, it is permissible to have contained campfires and grills with proper means to extinguish fire on site. Welding, using a cutting torch and smoking must be done in a cleared area of at least 10 feet in radius. On Aug.1, 2017 the fire ban will become a full ban. Acts prohibited during a full fire ban include building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal grill, coal or wood burning stove and smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or in a developed recreation site with at least a ten-foot radius.
Campers should contact the Game and Fish regional office closest to the WHMA they are planning to visit to find out the latest restrictions throughout the season. It is the camper’s responsibility to seek out this information and know the WHMA rules. Other fire information and closures can be found on the InciWeb website.
(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)