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EDITORIAL: Spring burning: Call ahead, check the forecast

With Easter just around the corner, it’s no surprise this week’s forecast calls for snow. But true to spring’s temperamental nature, we’ll also see sunny warm days that beckon children to play outside, homeowners to start yard work and farmers to begin preparing their fields.

If you’re planning a controlled burn of a field this spring, it’s important to follow some basic guidelines from local and state officials:

• Before igniting a fire, be sure to call the Park County Dispatch Center at 754-8700 to notify them. If a blaze is left unattended and dispatchers are not informed it’s a controlled burn, the Powell Volunteer Fire Department will put it out.

In the Powell, Clark, Ralston and Garland areas last year, more than 1,640 burns were called in to the Sheriff’s Office. County wide, there were around 3,000.

• Check the latest weather forecast, available online at www.weather.gov or by calling the National Weather Service’s Riverton office at 1-800-211-1448.

“Having an up-to-date wind speed and direction forecast can help you decide whether or not dropping the match is worth the risk,” Tim Troutman with the National Weather Service’s Riverton office, said in a news release.

A perfectly calm morning can turn into a blustery afternoon, he noted. If the weather conditions look unstable, don’t burn.

• Burn between 8 a.m. and sunset. Keep the burn area small so it can be safely controlled if the wind picks up and conditions worsen. Also be sure someone constantly attends to the blaze until it’s completely out; don’t allow a fire to continue burning overnight when no one is around.

• Have shovels, hoses, buckets and hand sprayers nearby to control the flames. Always plan for a possible shift in the wind.

• If flames start to get out of control, call 911 and stay out of harm’s way. You’ll be asked to provide the location of the fire, its size and whether any structures are threatened by the blaze.

While we know many local landowners are familiar with these tips, it never fails that the Powell Volunteer Fire Department is called to out-of-control fires each spring. We understand that even with the best plans, a blaze can get out of hand — especially among the literally thousands of burns that are conducted in Park County each year. However, it’s still important for landowners to take the necessary precautions to help prevent those situations.

The Powell area is fortunate to have dedicated teams of firemen and emergency responders standing by, ready to help whenever a fire gets out of control. Be sure to thank them for their faithful service — even if it’s not your fire that they’re responding to this spring.

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