CHEYENNE— A Colorado National Guard unit training with explosives started a wildfire that has scarred about 22 square miles in southeastern Wyoming, according to a preliminary investigation released Thursday by the Wyoming Military Department.
The Sawmill Fire erupted on the Wyoming National Guard’s Camp Guernsey training area Saturday as the Colorado engineer unit conducted trained with explosives, including TNT and dynamite, on a demolition range, department spokeswoman Deidre Forster said.
The unit was practicing clearing obstacles from roads by using explosives, she said.
“We deeply regret that military training caused this fire, but we are grateful that to this point no lives and no structures or livestock have been lost,” Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, Wyoming’s adjutant general, said in a news release.
Such exercises are routinely accompanied by Camp Guernsey firefighters, Forster said, but she had no details on why the fire still got out of hand.
Many areas of Wyoming are under fire restrictions that include bans on open fires and fireworks because of drought conditions.
No structures have been lost and no one has been hurt in the Sawmill Fire. But the fire forced the state to evacuate and close the east side of nearby Glendo State Park. The park’s west side and its Glendo Reservoir remained open, and the entire park, which is popular with boaters and campers, reopened on Thursday, with the fire 60 percent contained.
Reiner said the Wyoming National Guard has requested an independent investigation by an Air Force officer.
Besides the Wyoming Guard, Camp Guernsey has been used by the U.S. and international military units as well as various other state, federal and local government agencies that need weapons and explosives training.
About 160 Colorado Guard members participated in the training exercise that ran Friday through Sunday at the site 100 miles north of Cheyenne, Deidre said.
Elsewhere in Wyoming, dozens of wildfires broke out in Crook, Campbell and Weston counties since last weekend. Most fires were started by lightning, officials say.
Crook County Fire Warden Gari Gill counts 41 fires since last Saturday in his county alone. Most have been in forested areas, he said.
Gill said the fires have stretched resources, but firefighters have been able to contain the fires quickly. He said local ranchers have been helpful in both spotting fires early and helping to fight the fires.