Town and county officials consider improving town’s fire resiliency

For the first time, the community wildfire protection plan would aim to make most new developments in Jackson more resistant to flames.
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS staff presented the updated wildfire protection plan to town and county officials on May 6. (KHOL)

Jackson Hole Fire/EMS introduced an updated community wildfire protection plan to town and county officials earlier this week.

For the first time, the plan would aim to make new large developments and renovations in nearly the entire town fire resistant. This comes as wildfires in the West become more frequent and intense with climate change, blurring the line between risk to urban and rural areas. 

The plan refines the towns’ wildland urban interface (WUI), which contains areas where human development meets wilderness. In the past, the WUI boundary mainly included the fringes of town or the more rural areas of Teton County. But now, the entire town of Jackson could be included, including private property. According to Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, you don’t need to be right next to wilderness to be considered at risk of wildfire. 

On May 6, Fire Marshall Raymond Lane delivered a presentation on the new plan to local government officials. It hasn’t been updated since 2014, and ultimately, they agreed that the plan needs to be updated. 


I think we’re learning through research and fire modeling and new technology that wasn’t available in 2014 that our risk is probably a little greater than I think we realized,” Lane said.

But the councilors and commissioners still had some concerns: what specific preventative measures would need to be implemented into future developments and renovations? How will the plan impact Fire/EMS and town staff workload? And how will the town roll out new guidelines to the public? 

Jackson hasn’t seen any major wildfires in recent years, but the town’s wildfire risk is higher than about 84% of communities throughout the U.S., according to the Forest Service. And with so much public wilderness surrounding the town, officials say there may not be enough support to protect the town if there’s a large fire.

They worry a fire could reach the crest of the surrounding mountains and embers could then fall into town, igniting structures. Preventative measures, they say, need to be taken.

“I’m going to preface the reality that this department has and that this community has,” Lane said. “In the event that we have a major wildfire here, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and our national and federal partners together are not going to have enough manpower to protect every single structure.”

If the updated plan is passed this summer, all new large developments and renovations in Jackson would need to be built more fire resistant, and some fuels like trees would need to be thinned in development areas.

Wildfire really is not a fire issue. It really, truly is a building and land issue,” Lane said. “That is how we’re going to build a wildfire resistant community to get into the future.”

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