As of today, July 5, according to the Fire Incident Information System website, there are four major, active fires in Wyoming.
Here in Casper, we were greeted this morning with a nice little rain. Apparently the firefighters down in Fox Park and Sheep Mountain west of Laramie also experienced some light rain and cooler temperatures which helped the firefighting efforts on the 10,000+ acre Squirrel Creek Fire.
Rain, of course, is a good thing when wildfires are raging, but summer thunderstorms in the arid western US often contain more wind and lightning than actual rain. Strong drafts related to thunderstorms can cause fires to act in unpredictable ways, and lightning always has the potential to ignite new fires.
I have family down near the Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs. When I spoke with them Tuesday morning it was raining hard and had been raining for two hours. That kind of rain would certainly be welcome here.
The Arapaho Fire, now at 93,000+ acres is affecting many people in the Wheatland area causing evacuations and much concern. It’s the cause of the smoke seen in the photo below. We came upon this smoke cloud Sunday evening as we went up to the summer cattle ranges south of Casper approximately 40 miles west of the fire. Not many days later, smoke coming from the Squirrel Creek fire converged with the Arapaho smoke to envelop the town of Casper in a smoky haze.
Two other major fires, the Fontenelle Fire at 57,000 + acres and the Oil Creek Fire at 60,000+ acres are burning in the northwestern and eastern parts of the state. These are large fires, no doubt, still active and only partially contained.
The hard-to-imagine fire award, however, goes to the Ash Creek Complex Fire in Southeastern Montana which is currently estimated at a staggering 240,000+ acres. This fire has impacted the town of Ashland and many Montana ranches and farms. It is reported to be 50% contained. A similar sized fire burning in New Mexico is almost 90% contained, and the Honey Prairie fire, now declared out, burned over 300,000 acres in Georgia earlier this summer.
We didn’t get our usual spring rains, or winter snows. We sure could use that moisture now.