Carbon County officials announced Thursday Stage II fire restrictions will go into effect on Friday.
"I think there are a number of contributing factors that are making this Fourth of July in Carbon County, the biggest ever," said Carbon County Fire Warden Tom Kohley. "One is post COVID. Two, the holiday falls on a weekend. And three, it's just hot, and people tend to migrate towards higher elevation cooler temperatures. And we expect a lot of people from surrounding counties to come to the mountains, to enjoy the cooler weather and the holiday. And so we're expecting record level visitation this weekend."
Kohley said the crowds are part of the reason restrictions are needed.
"It's really a combination of things," he said. "But we do use some really very scientific criteria to measure fuel moisture content, and the... flammability of different fuels around the region. And we take that into consideration. But there's also considerations like the fact that we had a 30,000-acre fire in our back yard, and the fact that the holiday is expected to bring in record amounts of people into the area. And with that, increased fire risk."
Crews continue to work the lines of the state's largest wildfire just south of Red Lodge.
The Robertson Draw fire has burned 29,838 acres and is 65 percent contained.
Over to the east, the Crooked Creek fire has burned 4,087 acres and is 72 percent contained.
A Northern Rockies Type 2 incident management team is taking over for the team that has been there for two weeks.
The Stage 2 restrictions mean no open burning, which includes campfires, open burns and trash barrel burns.
Also off-road travel is not allowed on designated roads or trails.
No internal combustion engines will be allowed between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m. in wildland fuel areas, except for agriculture equipment.
Kohley said the Carbon County attorney has determined that stage 2 restrictions do not prohibit fireworks.
"Stage II fire restrictions, although it does include explosives, is not intended to cover fireworks," said Kohley. "So fireworks are still permitted on private lands. However, we are urging the utmost caution when igniting fireworks, we ask that people ignite them in non-flammable areas, and that they have suitable suppression materials and equipment nearby. Water hose, fire extinguishers, shovels, things to that effect to help extinguish any fire starts."