Dry Western conditions, particularly those in Colorado and neighboring states, triggers a wildfire season that can cost producers their homes and lives, unless action is taken now.
One course of action recommended by the University of Wyoming urges property owners to create defensible spaces between structures and potential burn areas.
"With the critically dry and hot conditions this year, it is extremely wise to make sure you create a defensible space around the entire perimeter of your home and all out buildings," advises Ron Cunningham, a UW Extension educator in Fremont County.
This is one thing that property owners can do themselves in defense against wildfires driven by drought conditions, he says.
All of the eight states in the Western Farmer-Stockman coverage area have experienced drought conditions at least in limited regions, but the major hit in the magazine's 800,000-square-mile readership map is in Colorado where most of the state is dry. That drought zone also includes eastern Utah . There are spot droughts on Nevada's eastern and western regions, with the most concern there in the West where the state's most productive agricultural region exists.
Coloradan producers on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains continue to struggle against the Colorado Springs fire which saw Air Force tankers withdrawn from the fight last week after one of the aircraft crashed when fighting a South Dakota blaze.
On the heels of that disaster, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared 62 Colorado counties drought disaster areas, bringing federal funding in to help farmers and ranchers in the designated region.
Vilsack's declaration on July 3 means producers have eight months apply for emergency drought disaster loan assistance via the Farm Service Agency.
Reports from officials indicate that Colorado drought losses are mounting for agriculture, but are also on the increase in other western states. While Colorado continues to fight the 30-square-mile Waldo Canyon Fire and the Colorado Springs conflagration, new drought-related fires have broken out in Utah, and Montana's 300-square-mile Ash Creek fire is raging.
In Wyoming, three forest fires have crews taxed to control.
Cunningham urges property owners to take these precautions:
n Trim or mow grassy areas around all buildings to a distance of at least 30 feet.
n Move firewood stacks 30 feet from buildings
n Remove dead branches near buildings
n Water grassy areas near buildings frequently
n Move all hay and straw 100 feet away from structures.
"One of the hardest fires to put out is a hay or straw fire as they have so much fuel packed tightly into bales," warns Cunningham.