Wyoming got its first taste of the 2021 wildfire season over the last two weeks as a lightning-caused fire 20 miles south of Buffalo burned more than 1,000 acres, mostly on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.
Wildfire had already impacted the state, however. Thirty-six-year-old smokejumper Tim Hart of Cody died May 24 parachuting to fight a fire in New Mexico. He had been based with a team in West Yellowstone, Montana.
As the West braces for a hot, fire-filled summer exacerbated by drought, Wyoming appears to be getting through its first significant blaze — the Robinson Fire near Buffalo. Managers began pulling crews and equipment off the fire this week as they contained 64% of its perimeter.
Thursday, 283 firefighters remained on the scene ensuring that fire-lines held. Managers will not strive to contain a larger percentage of the blaze’s perimeter because of rough country.
“The northern edge of the fire perimeter is holding along the edge of a cliff band and the bottom of Robinson Canyon,” managers said in a statement issued Thursday. “These are natural features that impede the fire’s advance, and areas that are unsafe for firefighters to be on the ground.”
Another fire is knocking on Wyoming’s door. A mile north of the border with Montana the Robertson Draw Fire created a spectacle this week as it grew beyond 24,000 acres. Closures on the Gallatin National Forest extend to the edge of Wyoming and smoke affected much of the state. Extreme fire behavior characterizes another fire — the 5,000-acre Crooked Creek Fire — in the Pryor Mountains just across the border in Montana.
Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the National Elk Refuge all elevated fire danger to “high” this week. Summer curing of vegetation combined with heat and wind led to the warning.
A small blaze that broke out near Pine Haven this week destroyed one residence, one outbuilding and two campers, according to a news release. That fire was burning on roughly 100 acres Thursday and was estimated to be 85% contained.
Wildfire preparedness in the country is at “level 3,” requiring the setting of priorities on a national scale. The National Interagency Fire Center sets that level when wildfires are active across a quarter of the country or more.
The center reported that slightly more than 1 million acres have burned through June 17, the fastest fire-season start since 2018.