The reason many people live in and visit Teton County is because of the hundreds of thousands of acres of forest that surrounds us. This is one risk factor that we all face when it comes to wildfires.
The weather is a huge risk factor when it comes to potential wildfire. The level of humidity in the air, the dryness of fuels such as fallen timber, the amount of wind, and the temperature all play a part in creating favorable conditions for wildfire. The Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS all have personnel that monitor the fire-weather situation to determine if county-wide restrictions need to be put in place such as limits on campfire use, requirements for spark arrestors, and bans on open burning.
You may have heard the term "red flag warning", which means that there is an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather situation. This can be a combination of high temperatures, very little moisture, and/or high winds. This warning is issued by our local National Weather Service office in Riverton, WY. When this is issued for an area, it lets local fire officials know that they need to be extra aggressive in both fire prevention and suppression.
Proximity to the Wildland / Urban Interface
If your home borders on forested land, your risk for being adversely affected by wildfire is much higher than those that are not. If you live in the wildland/urban interface, check the Firewise website for information on fire behavior, wildfire mitigation for your home, and much more.
Thick, "Doghair" Forests
Forests that have not had a fire run through them in a very long time tend to become very dense with many small diameter trees. These are known as "doghair" forests, because the trees are "as thick as the hair on a dog's back." These forests tend to have many dead lower branches due to the lack of sunlight, which act as fuel for fires.
There is also abundant fuel in the form of dead trees due to the competition for limited water, sunlight, and space.
Disease & Insect Infestation in Forests
The main infestation that we see locally are pine bark beetles infesting lodgepole pine trees. When the trees die due to the infestation, they soon dry out providing ample fuel for a forest fire.