Jul 6, 2017 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterArea firefighters didn't get much rest during the Fourth of July holiday.
Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam said his agency responded to 22 calls Tuesday, and there were 39 requests for help from countywide crews, mostly involving fireworks.
"It was kind of crazy," Haslam said Thursday. "(People) tried to burn everything up."
No one was injured in any of the incidents, but one residence was destroyed on Tappay Drive in Fort Washakie after a firework went astray, officials said.
Seven local agencies responded to the incident, which was reported as a grass fire just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Fremont County Fire Protection District Battalion 3 - Lander Rural chief Nick Johnson said the blaze consumed almost 14 acres of land in addition to the house.
The Red Cross helped the two adult residents find temporary lodging and address other immediate needs after the fire. Meanwhile, crews were on scene for five and a half hours, and one truck stayed on site all night to monitor hot spots.
It took 43 firefighters and 26 apparatus from seven departments to extinguish the blaze.
Haslam said other fires over the weekend threatened nearby structures, but no other buildings were damaged.
"We had a few that got pretty large, (but) most of the fires were able to be contained pretty quickly," he said.
The majority of calls were in the Lander and Fort Washakie areas, Haslam noted, but crews were called to respond to problems "all over the county."
"We had them out by Pilot Butte, Dubois had a couple, and there were a couple out in the Missouri Valley area," he said.
He attributed the preponderance of calls to irresponsibility on the part of revelers, combined with the dry condition of the vegetation that grew plentifully this spring due to the amount of moisture that passed through the county.
"The cheat grass and everything is so cured out, and (people) chose to light fireworks off where it could burn," Haslam said. "You've got to do it right - be safe and follow the rules."
The National Council on Fireworks Safety advises lighting explosives outdoors in cleared areas away from buildings and vehicles; always have a bucket of water and a charged water hose nearby, and dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible material.
Haslam added that people should try to stage their fireworks displays on irrigated land, especially now that the weather is warm and dry.
"Be cautious - it's starting to dry out," he said, adding, "Be careful (with) campfires and stuff too. We had a lot of snow, but even up to the 8,000-foot level we're starting to see its' starting to dry out. People need to be careful."
Not just the Fourth
Residents tend to start enjoying fireworks even before Independence Day.
Just after 9 p.m. Saturday fire crews responded to Boysen Reservoir, where someone had "set a hill side on fire with a Roman candle," according to initial reports.
After that, Haslam said there were 13 fire calls in Fremont County on Sunday and seven on Monday. One took place at about 8 p.m. Monday in the 1200 block of Quiver Lane in Riverton, where the reporting party said some kids lighting fireworks had caught the grass on fire, with a house about 20 feet away.
The revelry continues post-holiday, too.
"They're still shooting them off," Haslam said. "The fireworks stands are still open. But we haven't had any calls, knock on wood. It seems to have settled down."
-Staff writer Kelli Ameling contributed to this report.
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