Chief Willy Watsabaugh said the fire danger for the area is too high to allow the Independence Day events. He said the fireworks displays likely would divert too many firefighters from other areas of the valley.
“When we look at the risk analysis on this, it makes sense to stop this now,” he said early Monday evening.
He said he didn’t see a good alternative that would allow the displays to proceed.
Watsabaugh delayed his decision for much of Monday, deflecting questions from town and county officials throughout the day until he received additional test results about potential fire activity. Private fireworks are prohibited throughout the county, but the ban on the public events was uncertain.
Watsabaugh received some tests results late Monday afternoon that showed that Snow King is in the 97th percentile when looking at how likely it is for a large fire to spread in the area, he said. The test he cited measures the likelihood of combustion, moisture content and historical data for dead and downed fuels.
“We are in very high fire danger,” he said.
The decision comes as state and local government officials ramp up efforts to prevent fires, issuing new restrictions and trying to set money aside to pay for potential firefighting efforts.
Town and county officials Monday approved a partial fire closure, which carries with it new restrictions. It was set to take effect at 6 a.m. today.
Under the closure, residents are not allowed to:
• Build campfires within 25 feet of any structure or brush or tree-covered area unless it’s in an established campfire grate or ring;
• Operate a chain saw without an approved spark-arresting device, a chemically pressurized fire extinguisher and one round-point shovel at hand;
• Openly burn trash, grass, brush or tree cuttings or construction debris;
• Use a welder or torch or other types of open-flame device unless they are in a cleared area that is at least 10 feet in diameter and a chemically pressurized fire extinguisher is at hand;
• Use explosive devices that require fuse blasting caps, tracer bullets, rockets or model aircraft that use propellant-type engines.
Additionally, residents aren’t allowed to smoke unless they are within a developed recreation site, an enclosed vehicle or building or are in an area at least three feet in diameter that has been cleared of any flammable material.
Watsabaugh said the high fire danger in Teton County is coming earlier in the year than it historically has. County staff estimated that the fire risk is two to three weeks earlier than in years past.
He said he couldn’t recall ever having to ban fireworks displays because of fire danger.
Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park officials already approved partial fire closures. On Monday, Gov. Matt Mead issued a statement urging residents across the state not to use fireworks and open fires.
Mead sent letters to every county in the state, asking that they impose fire restrictions.
The Fire/EMS department currently has four firefighters in Big Piney. They drove an engine to the area last week and have been helping battle the Fontenelle Fire.
Two firefighters have been at the site since last week. Other firefighters from Jackson have rotated in to help out.
“We’re just trying to keep a watchful eye here,” Watsabaugh said. “We don’t want to have a lot of our resources away from the area.”
For information about fire restrictions, residents can call 866-221-6441 or visit www.tetonwyo.org/fire.
For more articles and information about the Jackson Hole area check out this link to the Jackson Hole News & Guide http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/