Wildfires

While the average number of wildfires in Wyoming has remained relatively constant, the total number of acres burned has steadily increased (Fig. 1). There are several benefits to wildfires including improved wildlife habitat and vegetation regeneration, but there are also several negative impacts such as home losses, decreased grazing acres, and damage incurred by watersheds. Awareness of wild fire prevention measures and resources available to mitigate the impact felt resulting from wildfire damages will help reduce the losses incurred from wildfires.

Figure 1. Acres burned in Wyoming from wildfires. Data gathered from the National Interagency Fire Center1.

Before a Wildfire

There is no way to guarantee that your home and land will not be impacted by wildfires, but taking proper pre-fire actions can either greatly reduce the probability that a wildfire will reach your home and can reduce the damage of potential wildfires. Click on the following links to learn more about being prepared for wildfires, or read below to learn how you can create defensible space around your home and different methods to reduce fuel loads.

Defensible Space

One of the many benefits of living in Wyoming includes the ability to live in areas that provide amenities such as great views, proximity to wildlife habitat, and distance from city centers. However, these amenities come with the responsibility to protect your property and family from wildfires by creating a defensible space. Defensible space is defined as an area surrounding houses and buildings that reduce the threat of wildfire damage. The following links provide information to help you create defensible space around your property.

Selecting Firewise Plants
Creating Defensible Space
Defensible Landscaping
Peace of Mind in Defensible Space
Protecting Your Property from Wildfire
Firewise Landscaping

Fuel Load Reduction

Fuel load reduction is effective in decreasing the probability of wildfire damage. Depending on resource availability, reducing fuel loads can be accomplished several different ways. Some of the more common techniques include mechanical treatment and targeted grazing. Be sure you have collected the proper information and evaluated potential impacts prior to selecting and conducting a fuel treatment.

Targeted Livestock Grazing

Livestock grazing has been recognized as a tool that could be used to reduce fuel loads by forage consumption and trampling. However, livestock grazing may not be the solution to heavy fuel loads in all cases. Before implementing a plan to use livestock as a fire prevention tool, it is important to evaluate several key considerations including type of livestock being used, palatability of forage being targeted, grazing intensity required to achieve necessary fuel reductions, and location of fuel treatment. The following articles provide information on the use of targeted livestock grazing to reduce fire risk.

Targeted Livestock Grazing
Can Livestock Grazing be Used to Reduce Wildfires?
Suggestions For Strategically Reducing Fuels and Wildfires in the Great Basin with Targeted Grazing
Interactions Among Livestock Grazing, Vegetation Type, and Fire Behavior
Targeted Grazing to Manage Fire Risk

Mechanical Fuel Treatment

The most common types of mechanical fuel treatments include mowing and tree thinning or pruning. Mechanical fuel treatments impact fires by reducing fuel loads and altering the structure of fuels. The benefits of mechanical fuel treatments include removal of dead grass, shrubs, or trees, wildfire reduction, and home and community protection. For more information regarding mechanical fuel treatments, refer to the articles below.

Benefits of Forest Fuel Reduction Treatments
Mechanical Treatments on Woodland Properties

After a Wildfire

Despite efforts taken to reduce wildfire potential, losses to homes, property, and livestock are still a reality. Recovering from such losses can often times be difficult. Keep in mind that wildfires impact entire ecosystems resulting in damages not only to human property, but also to wildlife habitat and vegetation conditions.  Restoring your property after wildfire raises questions about repairing your home and re-establishing property to a healthy ecological condition.  As much as your return home is anticipated, there are a number of steps you should take to make sure you and your family stay safe. Below is information regarding safety precautions to take, how to mitigate fire losses, and adjusting to post-fire conditions.

What Do I Do After the Fire?
Hidden Dangers Post-Fire
Drinking Water and Septic Systems
Impacts to Wildlife and Livestock
Fire and Follow-Up Management
Wildfire Rehabilitation Assistance

Sources:

1. National Interagency Fire Center. 2013. Wildland Fire Statistics. Available at: http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html. Accessed September 30, 2013.