Looking at strengths and weaknesses

Carbon County Emergency Manager finds areas to work on following fire events on April 3

 

April 14, 2021



While the arrival of spring may have more people thinking about floods rather than fires, four recent events that began as controlled burns are showing just how dry things are before the spring runoff.

During the April 6 meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCCC), the commissioners were informed about the recent events by Lenny Layman, Carbon County Emergency Manager, which took place on April 3.

“We had three to four controlled burns that got out of control, three in the Baggs area and one east of Riverside near the 1 Bar 11 Ranch. I conducted an OEM–Office of Emergency Management–AAR (After Action Review),” said Layman. “So, the processes that I was involved in on those, I just facilitated my own individual AAR. You kind of come up with three strengths and three areas of improvement.”


One of those areas of improvement, said Layman, was that he was unaware of Carbon County’s burn permitting process. The commissioners stated that the county didn’t have a permitting process, however, guidelines had been introduced by the former county fire warden, Ron Brown, in December 2020.

While not a regulation, per se, the guidelines direct anybody doing a controlled burn to contact either county or local dispatch. When calling into dispatch, information to be provided includes the location, date, time and contact number of the person performing the controlled burn. Additionally, if the materials to be burned are not natural–such as tree limbs, slash piles, grass, etc.–a special permit may be required from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.


The second area of concern for Layman dealt with communications after Moffat County had been dispatched to aid the Baggs Volunteer Fire Department.

“When those apparatus crossed our borders and came into the Baggs area they could not talk. Interoperability between Moffat County and those apparatus was non-existent,” Layman said. “I’ve already reached out to State Homeland Security, going to be talking with their (Moffat County) county EM, boots on the ground, and seeing if I can help facilitate some channel sharing.”

Layman added that the third area of concern was being addressed through involvement with the Carbon County IT Department and the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office. According to Layman, he had reached out to Matt Webster about providing a cell phone to the county dispatch.


“That dedicated cell phone will allow our Carbon County Dispatch to have a cell phone so that when I get involved I can text them updates as opposed to having to call or to break into radio traffic,” said Layman. “What I do is support and coordination, I don’t do tactical operations, so anytime I’m talking to a dispatcher I’m potentially taking them away from their primary (task).”

According to Layman, the process of obtaining a dedicated cell phone for Carbon County dispatch was already initiated by Sheriff Archie Roybal.

Despite the area of concern, Layman stated that there were strengths to be found with the events on April 3. Within minutes of the initial page going out about the fire in the Baggs area, he had been contacted by dispatch. Another strength discovered from the event was how quickly the Town of Baggs and the American Red Cross had mobilized.


While the Town of Baggs made sure that the Valley Community Center was prepared to take potential evacuees, the American Red Cross contacted lodging in Baggs and Dixon to determine how many rooms were available. 

Layman ended his report to the commissioners by stating that the county and local dispatchers should be contacted before a controlled burn is started so that they have situational awareness. Along with the four controlled burns that required an emergency response on April 3, the commissioners commented that there had been two more on April 5.

“Burning ditches and fields is a pretty common practice but I just don’t think people realize how dry it really is,” said Commissioner Byron Barkhurst.

The next meeting of the Board of Carbon County Commissioners will be at 2 p.m. at the Medicine Bow Senior Center in Medicine Bow.

 

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