Uinta County Fire Department Chief Administrative Officer Eric Quinney said, “We are extremely grateful for our volunteers; they are on call 24/7, 365 days a year and generously give up time with family and activities. We couldn’t operate without them. We are always looking for more volunteers who want to serve their community.”
Overall, Wyoming statistics concerning numbers of fires and related deaths and injuries appear much lower than the national average and 70.2 % of Wyoming’s fire departments are volunteer; which demonstrates how important volunteers are to local fire departments.
The National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) shows Wyoming with 114 fire departments in the National Fire Department Registry and 81 of those reported data in 2020.
NFIRS data for Wyoming in 2020 (the latest update): For all fire casualties there were 1.5 deaths and 2.9 injuries per 1,000 fires. The national average was 2.3 deaths and 7.9 injuries per 1,000 fires.
Wyoming’s residential structure fire casualties registered 2.2 deaths and 4.3 injuries per 1,000 fires. The national average was 6.0 deaths and 21.7 injuries per 1,000 fires.
Zero on-duty firefighter fatalities have been reported in Wyoming in 2022. Between 1990 and 2021, 15 on-duty firefighter fatalities were reported by Wyoming to the U.S. Fire Administration. Six home fatalities were reported in 2022 and also, in 2021, sixwere reported by the news media.
Uinta County statistics for 2022 are even better with only one home fire fatality; and no fatalities or injuries to on-duty firefighters.
Fire protection is the responsibility of the Fire Marshall and the Uinta County Fire District, however, preventing fires is everyone’s responsibility in order to protect themselves, their loved ones and their property. Homes located near range land and forested areas may be affected by wild fires.
The Uinta County Fire Department website lists specific methods for protecting a home from wildfires and grass fires including: having clear access to the home; keeping the roof clear of dead leaves and branches; cleaning chimneys of debris; using fire resistant building materials; creating landscaping that allows defensive space; placing any flammable materials at least 30 feet away from buildings; keeping an emergency water supply and creating easy access for firefighters.
Fire Marshall Tim Overy said, “In the Evanston vicinity, we have 45 volunteer firefighters and we can always use more,” Overy said. “We have two paid staff and a fire chief in the Evanston office and a full-time chief in Bridger Valley. Eric Quinney floats between Evanston and the Valley.”
Overy said 2022 has been a successful year. The Evanston department had 22 structure fires with only one fatal house fire and no firefighter fatalities or injuries.
The department is constantly searching for new and advanced training, Overy said. They provide volunteer firefighters with extensive training in new technology, extraction techniques, and all other aspects of fighting fires. They now have a new training facility which provides simulated fire situations.
Bridger Valley Fire Chief Dexter Mohler was busy with a grass fire caused by burning garbage but took time to talk to the Herald after “it worked out well and we got it out,” he said.
The Bridger Valley fire department covers Uinta County from milepost 24 to the eastern line of Uinta County. Thirty-two volunteers and Chief Mohler make up the department.
Mohler said they have had 181 fire incidents in 2022 and those included all kinds: hazardous materials, grass fires, vehicle fires and six structure fires. They also respond to back country rescues and the majority of their calls, Mohler said, are for vehicle extraction from milepost 54 to milepost 57.
The Bridger Valley fire department uses a mobile training unit that works with propane fires to mimic actual fires and allows the teaching of fire progression, moving hose lines, using air packs, and working with restricted visibility. They also provide volunteers with CPR training as they also respond to ambulance calls.
“We have been fortunate here in Bridger Valley,” Mohler said. “We’ve had no loss of life or injuries with firefighters this year. We are thankful for the volunteers and I, too, want to put out a plea for anyone who wants to serve the community, we can always use more volunteers. Without the volunteers we couldn’t do what we do; they make the difference.”