Warm temperatures, wind increase fire danger

By Lauren Brant

As the temperature heats up and the winds continue to blow, dry grasses and dead trees create homes for a fire to ignite.

Two weeks ago, there was a fire in northwest Sheridan County near the old Robbins homestead. Lightning struck a tree and exploded rocks out of the ground. Fire crews worked through the timber but did not locate the fire until two days after the initial lightning strike. They removed dead timber from the area as well as the roots. Firefighter Jerry Kearns said the dead roots can continue burning and start fires away from the tree trunk’s location.

Despite the moisture the Panhandle received last week, the fuels are still susceptible to change. With the forecast calling for wind and warm temperatures, the one-hour fine fuels like grasses and needles dry out. That increases the fire danger. “Our ecosystem is so easy to change,” said Kearns. “We can be back into a fire season in a matter of days.”

With the help of government entities, landowners are knocking down old, dead timber to make those areas less vulnerable to fire spread. Still, fire danger remains in the area. “People have to stay concerned because we haven’t had a significant fire season since 2012,” said Kearns.

The Wellnitz Fire of 2012 left tall grass and dead, burnt timber. With heat and wind, that area of one-hour fuels could ignite as they have built up over the last few years.

With the fire season set to start later this month, people should exercise caution when working outside with welders and other machinery, and when burning debris. You should also never dispose of cigarettes outside. Residents who live in forested areas should establish a buffer between their homes and timber.

Stay alert and help local firefighters protect cities and homes as the temperature climbs and winds blow.

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