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Old 05-03-2009, 09:33 PM
 
Location: In a city
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As my husband and I sat out next to our bonfire pit in the back yard this evening, it got me wondering if bonfires or campfires in a Wyoming residential back yard are seen much or if the dry climate prohibits them? We live next to a slough/swamp, so the chance in the spring of setting anything on fire are slim, but it could happen. We do have to keep the garden hose handy in case. I would guess that campground would allow for fire pits...

I'm just wondering, of you native Wyomingites, how many of you have had bonfires in your back yard and are there any restrictions? Is finding burnable wood a problem?

I grew up with a burning barrel in the back yard where we took care of our paper trash, but you don't see many of those anymore.
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Old 05-04-2009, 03:51 AM
 
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Due to the dry climate here, open fires are generally banned by the county fire marshall every year based upon the fire danger level. Usually around May through Oct/Nov.

When the county puts the "burn ban" order out, all open fires are prohibited (even on private land) unless in a specific "safe" fire pit and monitored burn. I can't give you the specifics of what they consider safe, but everything that might be a possible fire hazard is banned ... even welding outdoors if not in a safe zone. Any open flame source must be continuously monitored, you must keep a "fire watch" on during the entire time that the fire is going.

Due to the high winds and blowing combustibles around here, such as tumbleweeds (russian thistle), it's a risky business even in an open fire ring ... you can have a tumbleweed blow through, get ignited, and then blow on past the "safe" area to ignite other stuff. The winds can fan a small ember into open flames in a matter of minutes.

Within city limits, large open fires are banned year around. You won't see many trash incinerators, either, or burn barrels. Everything either goes to re-cycling or the dump via the trash service.

Lots of wood available for campfires in the campgrounds, but even those are banned when the county fire ban is in effect. The only approved open flame then is in a proper charcoal grill in a safe area or by using a stove for cooking. Wyoming State Game and Fish Department may also issue the "fire ban" on public lands instead of county fire officials.

Wood gathering permits are seasonally issued for various public lands. Sometimes, the agencies will have cut down trees they want removed and all you have to do is head out there with a chainsaw and cut it into manageable chunks to load onto your trailer or pick-up. The problem with this is that many of the removed trees are beetle-kill infested and the beetles are still alive. If you bring such wood to your home, you may be bringing the beetles to infest your trees and your neighbors. It's best to not bring this wood home unless you can wrap and cover it tightly for a year to allow the beetles to die off ... and then you still need to air-dry split wood for a year so it's suitable for firewood. We don't have hardwoods around here, it's all softwood conifers and pine, and some elm trees that have been planted in the area.

With the dry climate and so much combustible stuff around, you only have to see one lightning strike caused fire to appreciate how many acres can go up in smoke in a matter of minutes to appreciate the risk here. It's totally unlike places where there's a lot of undergrowth and fuel but all very wet and slow to burn.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-04-2009 at 04:54 AM..
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Old 05-04-2009, 06:16 AM
 
Location: In a city
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thank you sunsprit, for the information. Do you know how hikers in the mountains cook then, if such burning bans are in effect during the months they would most likely be hiking? I'm just wondering since the NOLS people (and their like) seem to utilize the Wind Rivers and other mountains frequently, I would think they would have to burn fires. And I can't imagine them carrying Colemen stoves around with them.

Are the "contained" fire pits allowable in some places? such as these?

I'm surprised that fireworks are permissible then, with the dryness and wind...
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:38 AM
 
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Sorry, the link doesn't appear to be working.

When the burn bans are in effect in the mountain areas, they are issued at several different levels ...

1) A total ban on any open fire, even in provided fire rings. Cooking is done only on a portable liquid or bottled gas cookstove in a "safe" location.

2) Open flame allowed only from a cookstove on a tabletop or in a clearing, or a portable charcoal bar-b-que used in a campground built fire ring. Still no open wood fires allowed, even in a fire ring.

3) or, a partial open fire ban, which allows an open flame only in campfire rings that were built by the campsite operator (county, state, or federal campground). This prohibits clearing a site and making your own fire ring at a campsite.

Go to the NOLS musuem, and you'll see that included in their historic equipment display of camping gear is an assortment of Coleman and Primus white gas, alcohol, or butane powered stoves, or even a folding Sterno stove. Yes, they do carry stoves with them. With the advent of the latest generation of lightweight multi-fuel backpacking stoves ... a powerful stove is only a matter of a few ounces, especially when they're carrying freeze dried entrees or similar lightweight food. The days of building a fire ring in the wilderness and having a campfire have been long passed except for the survival aspects in an emergency situation; even then, a couple of forest fires have been started by people in this type of situation. NOLS has long been a "leave no trace of your visit" advocate, and that extends to everything that you bring in must come back out with you ... so you leave no disturbed ground with a firepit, no trash, no latrine, and even no excrement (you brought it in, you pack it out ... that's what the ammo can with a liner is for).

Re fireworks: The fireworks that are legal to sell and use in Wyoming are becoming more restricted, and right now it's a case of being able to buy some stuff that isn't legal to use except on your own private property with extreme caution.

Fireworks are illegal to use within most city limits, such as Cheyenne or Laramie. That's a blanket ban on everything, including sparklers and other hand held items.

In the county, the only legal fireworks to be used on your own property are smaller stuff with a very limited range. Even "pop bottle" rockets are now banned to use, because they can travel an unpredictable path. Larger exploding noisemakers are banned, too, as are larger skyrockets ... which are still legal for sale and possession here.

If there's an open fire ban in effect, using these items will alert the authorities from miles away. I know the volunteer fire department dreads every July 4th when numerous small fires are started by folks who let their enthusiam for the celebration take over their common sense. And there's a catch ... if you start a fire with these items during a "fire ban" time, you'll get a bill for any fire department services rendered ... as well as be held fully accountable for any damage to a neighbor's property ... and your property insurance won't cover the physical damage, only your liability coverage to others property. Burn your house down with illegal fireworks and it's all yours.

One family here went bankrupt after getting the bill for a neighbor's hay storage when their little track of pop bottle rocket wind-fanned embers reached $100,000 worth of hay. Once a haystack fire gets going, in a couple of minutes they cannot put the fire out .... all that can be done is to try to contain the fire to the haystack, and it burned for three days which required 24/7 fire department work on the scene.

For the most part, folks here in the county don't use fireworks anymore. It would seem the only people who do are newcomers from states where fireworks weren't available, and they go crazy with all the stuff they can buy.

I think most of the fireworks retail sales are to folks from out-of-state where they can't buy these items, or at least some of the more powerful stuff legal to sell in Wyoming. The biggest fireworks stores are located just inside the Wyoming state line, where it's the closest point for them to come to Wyoming and buy fireworks. Just like there's a bunch of stores right inside the state line for Colorado, where they have a legal state lottery ... so Wyoming folk can get their lottery fix without any excess travel.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-04-2009 at 09:52 AM..
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Old 05-04-2009, 12:35 PM
 
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Several of our neighbors have fire pits and use them all year round. Even during burning bans.

The key is too have a well defined area surrounded by defensible space. All our homes( our neighbors and ours) border national forest. Our homes are built with this in mind and all fires are burned accordingly. You would not burn slag or brush at this time and the for would need to be well controlled.
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Old 05-04-2009, 04:47 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paintersspouse View Post
Several of our neighbors have fire pits and use them all year round. Even during burning bans.

The key is too have a well defined area surrounded by defensible space. All our homes( our neighbors and ours) border national forest. Our homes are built with this in mind and all fires are burned accordingly. You would not burn slag or brush at this time and the for would need to be well controlled.
Perhaps this is a difference in how well and aggressively enforced the county "burn bans" are in our counties down here in SE Wyoming and other counties.

I know for a fact if you're caught with an outdoor fire ... even in a "fire pit" ... during a burn ban time, you'll be looking at some pretty stiff fines. The county here takes the danger very seriously, and is very aggressive about enforcement. There's simply too much risk for others if one little fire gets out of control ... and the resources to deal with such a fire aren't here. We're dealing with fire departments of limited volunteer labor pools and limited equipment ... not big city fire departments with lots of resources and other stations to call in with dedicated full time professionals and major equipment. I can tell you that the volunteers here take a very dim view of those who would knowingly violate burn ban restrictions ... and might be very slow to respond to a fire at your house at a place where you've been caught with a fire in the past during a burn ban.

I'm not sure I'd call it "responsible" behavior to tell folks that we've got a problem here with explosive fire risk ... but it's OK to ignore the burn bans as issued by the county or state authorities. Even if you've got a defensible space around your burn pit, the winds and gusts around here can defeat even well designed facilities. It only takes a few sparks and a real problem can develop very quickly.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-04-2009 at 04:56 PM..
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Old 05-04-2009, 05:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Perhaps this is a difference in how well and aggressively enforced the county "burn bans" are in our counties down here in SE Wyoming and other counties.

I know for a fact if you're caught with an outdoor fire ... even in a "fire pit" ... during a burn ban time, you'll be looking at some pretty stiff fines. The county here takes the danger very seriously, and is very aggressive about enforcement. There's simply too much risk for others if one little fire gets out of control ... and the resources to deal with such a fire aren't here. We're dealing with fire departments of limited volunteer labor pools and limited equipment ... not big city fire departments with lots of resources and other stations to call in with dedicated full time professionals and major equipment. I can tell you that the volunteers here take a very dim view of those who would knowingly violate burn ban restrictions ... and might be very slow to respond to a fire at your house at a place where you've been caught with a fire in the past during a burn ban.

I'm not sure I'd call it "responsible" behavior to tell folks that we've got a problem here with explosive fire risk ... but it's OK to ignore the burn bans as issued by the county or state authorities. Even if you've got a defensible space around your burn pit, the winds and gusts around here can defeat even well designed facilities. It only takes a few sparks and a real problem can develop very quickly.

Well since both of my closet neighbors( with fire pits) are members of the fire department and very aware of the rules, I would think they know what they are doing.

There is far more damage caused by people parking their running vehicles over a dry and old grass in the forest or a pasture.
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Old 05-04-2009, 08:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sheridanbound View Post
Well since both of my closet neighbors( with fire pits) are members of the fire department and very aware of the rules, I would think they know what they are doing.

There is far more damage caused by people parking their running vehicles over a dry and old grass in the forest or a pasture.
NO, it just confirms for me the difference between those that take their job seriously and respect the laws ... and those that don't.

I just got off the phone with a neighbor who is on our local volunteer fire department ... and he said he'd fire anybody who didn't follow the burn ban rules when posted. With it a huge burden on their time and jobs to respond to the fire calls, they take their job seriously ... and to fire somebody is a big deal when it comes to losing trained manpower on the crew. I would think that they have a reason for following the rules ... and it's not how to flaunt that they're above them.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-04-2009 at 09:05 PM..
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Old 05-04-2009, 09:01 PM
 
Location: In a city
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Sorry, the link doesn't appear to be working.
try these... they look like open bbq grills with mesh instead of solid sides.

http://backroads-vermont.com/images/images_30040/AR021.jpg (broken link)

http://www.dancingfire.biz/ProductIm...ire_pit_tt.jpg


When I was younger and living in Lander, I remember the fire works that were set off in town -- most particularly by the owner of one bar I used to tend at, who used a poster roll holder and huge rockets (about 2 ft long) and shot them at the rival bar in town. I can see where he was reckless but at the time I was just going along with the crowd. Glad to hear they have tightened the regulations somewhat.

I didn't know that they would use small stoves. Guess that makes sense. I'll have to stop by NOLS when we go there this summer. I have some friends from the camp I worked at for two summers that are really into those back country hikes.
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Old 05-05-2009, 07:36 AM
 
380 posts, read 886,822 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Perhaps this is a difference in how well and aggressively enforced the county "burn bans" are in our counties down here in SE Wyoming and other counties.

I know for a fact if you're caught with an outdoor fire ... even in a "fire pit" ... during a burn ban time, you'll be looking at some pretty stiff fines. The county here takes the danger very seriously, and is very aggressive about enforcement. There's simply too much risk for others if one little fire gets out of control ... and the resources to deal with such a fire aren't here. We're dealing with fire departments of limited volunteer labor pools and limited equipment ... not big city fire departments with lots of resources and other stations to call in with dedicated full time professionals and major equipment. I can tell you that the volunteers here take a very dim view of those who would knowingly violate burn ban restrictions ... and might be very slow to respond to a fire at your house at a place where you've been caught with a fire in the past during a burn ban.

I'm not sure I'd call it "responsible" behavior to tell folks that we've got a problem here with explosive fire risk ... but it's OK to ignore the burn bans as issued by the county or state authorities. Even if you've got a defensible space around your burn pit, the winds and gusts around here can defeat even well designed facilities. It only takes a few sparks and a real problem can develop very quickly.

In Wyoming very seldom is a complete "open fire burn" put in place with out some exceptions such as the following,


In Wyoming, Crook County has issued a restriction on open burning, and Weston County has issued a fire ban. Communities affected include Beulah, Sundance, Hulett, Aladdin, Moorcroft, Newcastle, Upton, and Four Corners. The discharge of fireworks and all outdoor fires are prohibited in the unincorporated areas of the counties except as follows:
  • Trash or refuse fires between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. inside containers provided with a spark arrester and located within a cleared area ten feet in radius are permitted.
  • Campfires contained within an established fire ring at an established campground area are permitted.
  • Charcoal fires within enclosed grills are permitted.
  • Use of acetylene cutting torches or electric arc welders in cleared areas ten feet in radius is permitted.
  • Propane or open fire branding activities in cleared areas ten feet in radius are permitted.
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