From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Search and rescue team has slowest winter, spring season ever

JACKSON (WNE) — Teton County Search and Rescue had its slowest winter and spring seasons ever.

A midyear review documented only 18 call-outs from December 2019 to June 1. That's the fewest accidents in a six-month stretch in the volunteer organization's nearly 30-year history.

"We are hopeful that prevention education through Backcountry Zero has helped our community be more prepared and practiced for adventuring in the Tetons," said Stephanie Thomas, director of the Teton County Search and Rescue Foundation. "But our team continues to train to be ready to respond when accidents happen."

Though the winter and spring months showed a slowdown in calls for help, the summer has seen an increase, foundation Communications Director Matt Hansen said.

"There has been a steady increase since June 1, with the team responding to six accidents already this summer," Hansen said.

Backcountry Zero, an initiative that started in 2015, is an education program to reduce injuries and fatalities in the Jackson Hole region.

That education, the foundation believes, has helped people be more prepared as they hike, hunt, climb, ski and snowmobile in the backcountry.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic likely also slashed winter and spring rescue numbers, Hansen said. Grand Teton National Park, for example, closed access to the high peaks for 55 days at a time when ski mountaineers typically pursue more challenging lines. In late March, April and part of May, many national parks closed entry gates to discourage travel and tourism amid the global pandemic.

Fireworks explosion damages fire station

TORRINGTON (WNE) — One firefighter was treated for a hand injury and seven others narrowly escaped disaster last week when an accidental firework discharge caused an explosion at the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department's lower station in Pioneer Park.

Firefighters were loading four-inch mortar shells on July 1 when the discharge triggered the large fireworks intended to be the city's Fourth of July display to explode, causing significant damage to the building and its contents.

"This could have been a tragedy," TVFD Chief Lance Petsch said. "So far, everyone is good."

Petsch, who was present during the explosion, said his ears were ringing and his heart was racing. He said he had no idea why the firework discharged.

"We had just loaded a tube like we've done for 15 years, with the same safety precautions," he said. "We heard the squib pop, and then one launched. As soon as that happened, everybody started bailing out of the building."

The incident is being investigated by the Wyoming State Fire Marshall, as is protocol with any fire.

"Honestly, we don't know what happened," Petsch said. "These were the same safety measures we've always done. It just shows something can happen."

The explosion led to the cancellation of the Torrington Independence Day celebration. According to the city's 2019 annual budget, the city spent $12,000 on the display.

Volunteer fire departments from Lingle, Yoder and Veteran responded to the scene.

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