Aug 15, 2016

Primary election to feature races for Legislature, commission, mayor

While no races will officially be decided in Tuesday’s primary election, some could be all-but determined by the results and many others will be re-shaped.

Locally, Park County voters will cast ballots for candidates running for Congress, the state Legislature, the Park County Commission and Powell mayor, among other races.

Primary elections are generally a partisan affair, where Republican, Democratic and other voters choose their party’s nominees for the general election. In line with an overwhelmingly Republican county, most of the action is on the Republican ballot.

At the top of the ballot, partisan voters will find the statewide race to replace U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republicans will choose among eight candidates and Democrats two, while Libertarians and Constitutionalists each have one contender. The leading vote-getters from each party will face off in November’s general election.

Park County
Five Republicans are battling for two available seats on the Park County Commission: incumbent Lee Livingston of Wapiti and challengers Jake Fulkerson of Cody, Richard George of rural Cody, Bob Ruckman of rural Powell and South Fork resident Boone Tidwell.

(The other incumbent whose term expires this year — Commissioner Bucky Hall of Cody — is not seeking re-election.)

The top two GOP vote-getters will advance to November’s general election ballot. A Democratic challenger could join the race by collecting 25 or more write-in votes on their party’s primary ballot.

Perhaps the most intriguing local race is the Republican primary in House District 24, where incumbent Sam Krone of Cody is facing challenger Scott Court.

Court is not well known in Cody, but the race got a shakeup in late July, when Krone was charged with seven criminal counts alleging he embezzled more than $9,600 from the Park County Bar Association between 2010 and 2013. He is due to make his first court appearance Tuesday morning. Krone has said he’ll be exonerated.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will advance to face Democrat Paul Fees of Cody and an independent bid from Republican Sandy Newsome of Cody — assuming she collects several dozen signatures by Aug. 29.

House District 24 represents the western part of Cody, the North and South forks, Wapiti and the northern part of Yellowstone National Park.

Meanwhile, the primary competition for House District 50 — which includes the eastern part of Cody, Ralston, the Willwood, Heart Mountain, Clark, Crandall and Sunlight — will be much less interesting. State Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, is unopposed in the Republican primary and so is his Democratic challenger, Mike Specht of Clark. Those two will presumably advance to face off in November.

Even less intriguing could be the race for Senate District 18, where no one is opposing long-time state Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody.

Republican voters in the Powell area will again be asked to choose whether they’d like to be represented in the state legislature by Dan Laursen or David Blevins. Laursen ousted Blevins in 2014’s primary and now Blevins is looking to return the favor in a House District 25 rematch. The GOP winner will face Democrat Shane Tillotson in November.

City of Cody
With municipal positions being non-partisan, all Cody voters can help winnow the field for city mayor. With three candidates in the race (Charles Cloud, Matt Hall and Tim Lamb) and only two spots available on the general election ballot, the lowest vote-getter will effectively be eliminated today. The two top candidates will face off again in November.

(City of Powell voters will make the same choice with incumbent Mayor Don Hillman and challengers James Andrews and Dawson Wolff.)

Meanwhile, Cody city council candidates Landon Greer, Jerry Fritz and Glenn Nielson are all running unopposed in wards 1, 2 and 3, respectively; Greer and Fritz are incumbents while Nielson is a newcomer.

Election Basics
City of Cody residents cast their ballots at the Cody Auditorium, those who live north and east of the city vote at the Cody Recreation Center, Wapiti and North Fork residents vote at the Wapiti school, South Fork folks gather at the Southfork Fire Hall, Heart Mountain residents vote at the Mountain View Club and Clark citizens at the Clark Pioneer Recreation Center.

You can use the Wyoming Secretary of State's website to figure out your polling place if you're unsure.

As of Aug. 1, Park County had 12,447 registered votes. That’s a little more than half of the adult population.

More than 80 percent of those registered — a total of 10,043 voters — were Republicans. Another 1,255 voters (10 percent) were Democrats and another 1,071 (8.6 percent) were unaffiliated.
Those figures will change today, as Wyoming law allows citizens to register to vote and to change their party affiliation at the polls.

To register, all you need is a driver’s license or a photo ID and Social Security number.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Republican Congressional contenders slug it out at Cody event

In differentiating themselves from their opponents, five of the Republican candidates for Wyoming’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t pull many punches at a Wednesday night forum in Cody.

Front-runner Liz Cheney of Wilson described herself as the only one ready to start the Congressional job on day one — and accused another leading contender, state Sen. Leland Christensen of Alta, of being too liberal.

For his part, Christensen stood by his Wyoming credentials and charged that Cheney moved to Wyoming from Virginia “just to run for office.”

Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith, meanwhile, said he was the only viable alternative to Cheney — “a good Virginia girl” — and that Wyoming needs stop sending “the same type of legislators” to Washington.

Finally, correctional officer Jason Senteney of Torrington and Paul Paad, a safety and personnel director at a Casper trucking company, each said the state should be represented by people like them and not by more politicians or lawyers.

Liz Cheney and Darin Smith (at right) listen as Leland Christensen speaks at a Wednesday night forum in Cody. Cody News Co. photo by Tessa Schweigert
Those five candidates — plus banking employee Heath Beaudry of Evanston, assistant English professor Mike Konsmo of Powell and Casper attorney/state Rep. Tim Stubson, who all missed the forum — will face off in today’s (Tuesday’s) Republican primary election.

Along with Democrats Ryan Greene and Charlie Hardy, Libertarian Lawrence Struempf and Constitutionalist Daniel Cummings, they’re all seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

Lummis is not seeking re-election after four terms and eight years in Congress.

Cheney shoots first

The clashes started with a question about what the candidates would do to “end the Congressional gridlock and hyper-partisan politics.”

Christensen said being a legislator has taught him to “work on the issue and worry less about positioning and arguing and more about how we can accomplish good.” He said a shift from partisan fighting to a focus on positive outcomes for America would “really change how Washington works.”
Senteney expressed similar thoughts about a “more and more divided” Congress.

“People have stopped looking at what’s best for the country first — putting aside party politics and working on the simple stuff first, the stuff we agree on: public safety, making sure our kids have it better than we do,” he said.

Smith suggested the solution was for conservatives to be more united, saying past compromises have not worked out well.

Paul Paad of Casper
“I will not compromise on any more debt and I will not compromise on any more moving to the left on social issues,” Smith said.

He suggested working on bipartisan issues like “job performance standards” for members of Congress.

Cheney then started a series of pointed exchanges by accusing Christensen of having compromised “our values” on votes on abortion- and environment-related issues.

“If you’re willing to compromise and take positions that the Democrats and the liberal left will favor, then you will find compromise,” Cheney said. “I don’t believe that’s right.”

She said the solution to end gridlock is “attracting other people to our cause, explaining why our conservatives values are the right ones — not looking for ways to compromise on the environment or on life.”

Paad, the next to speak, wryly remarked that “with all these different answers, I’m not sure I remember what the question was.”

He suggested term limits could end the gridlock.

Current members of Congress, Paad said, are more focused on moving up the ladder and following their leaders than anything else.

“They’re like a bunch of Shetland ponies at a fair, going around one of those little wheels, you know?” he said. “They don't know who's leading.”

Christensen then got a chance to counter Cheney’s criticism, saying “there’s a difference between compromise and negotiation and setting the standards to find a win-win — and it’s possible if you work at it.”

He said he was proud of his track record — and he described Cheney’s record in the State Department as “giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran and Syria.”

That was just the beginning of a protracted back-and-forth dialogue between the two candidates.

Vehicles in Yellowstone

Beyond the personal pitches and criticisms, the candidates were questioned about a number of issues — including how they felt about the possibility of restrictions on the number or types of cars entering Yellowstone National Park.

Paad said he hadn’t looked into the topic and didn’t know if he’d be qualified to make that decision.

Smith also did not weigh in on the possibility of vehicle restrictions, but “how do they not make money in Yellowstone, really?” he asked rhetorically.

Jason Senteney of Torrington
“We definitely need to re-think how we administer things at the federal level; these things should be profitable,” Smith said, suggesting that making federal employees “at-will” would help.

Senteney’s response drew the biggest laughs of the night.

“If they’re going to limit the amount of cars, they also need to limit the amount of selfies in Yellowstone,” he said.

Christensen, meanwhile, bemoaned how winter snowmobiling has been curtailed in the park over the years.

“I don’t think we ought to be limiting. I think we ought to be talking about cleaner products — whether it’s our cars, whether it’s our snowmobiles,” he said, adding, “There was some real progress (on snowmobiles). Let’s clean it up.”

Cheney said she didn’t support limitations on automobiles.

Illegal immigration

The candidates outlined differing approaches to address illegal immigration into the United States.
Christensen said the first step would be to secure the country’s borders by giving more authority and resources to the people working there.

To cut down on the “influx” of people coming across the border, he also suggested reforming and “ramping up” the H-1B visa program, which allows foreigners to temporarily work in the country.

“That's how we're really going to make a difference on this,” Christensen said. “It's good for business; it's good for people who want to come here legally and want to understand a little bit more about this American dream.”

Beyond criticizing both the “broken” immigration system and President Barack Obama for not enforcing current laws, Cheney said the U.S. needs “to stop the inflow of Syrian refugees who absolutely cannot be vetted and who present a direct national security threat to us.”

“We can’t allow people to come over here that are not going to assimilate to our values or they’re going to try to force their values on us,” said candidate Darin Smith.

Smith said enforcing current laws will generally solve the problem with illegal immigration.

“Immigration without assimilation is invasion,” he added. “We can’t allow people to come over here that are not going to assimilate to our values or they’re going to try to force their values on us. It simply is a matter of national security.”

Senteney said he’s proposed a five-point plan that includes immediately putting unemployed veterans to work on the southern border and strengthening the existing E-Verify system that allows employers to check if a person can legally work in the U.S.

Paad said the federal government should “defund” so-called “sanctuary cities” — that is, cities where police are prohibited from inquiring about a person’s immigration status — and defund the states that allow sanctuary cities. He said police should be allowed to report anyone who’s in the country illegally and that the vetting process for immigrants should be strengthened.

The Wednesday forum was hosted by the Park County Republican Party and held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Aug 9, 2016

With fighterfighters' work and Sunday rain, Whit Fire mostly contained

A Sunday thunderstorm aided firefighting efforts on the Whit Fire west of Cody, upping containment to 70 percent by Monday evening.

The fire began Tuesday, Aug. 2, on the North Fork of the Shoshone River southeast of Wapiti. By Wednesday evening, the fire had burned across 9,600 acres and spread to the South Fork.

Burnout operations. Photo courtesy Brant Jungck
Roughly 260-270 North and South Fork residents were directed to evacuate on Tuesday and Wednesday; those orders were able to be lifted on Saturday morning.

Incident Commander Todd Pechota’s Type 1 Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team took over the fire on Friday. They helped get the blaze 15 percent contained on Friday evening and 30 percent by Saturday evening.

Firefighters took an aggressive strategy and made progress, Pechota said at Saturday evening meeting at Glenn Livingston Elementary School in Cody. Though, the commander added, “I’m not going to tell you it’s a done deal.”

The fire stood at 12,094 acres on Monday.

It’s a hazardous environment of rugged terrain, rolling rocks, falling trees and no protection when lightning strikes. Two firefighters suffered injuries, Pechota said. One sustained a tear to the lower abdomen and the other was hit in the shoulder by a rock.

“These guys are giving it their all,” Pechota said.

Rain was in the forecast for Sunday, he noted, and, “We’re taking every drop.”

Luckily, the weather forecast was right.

Sunday afternoon was sunny and warm, but thick clouds to the west suggested rain.

Around 1:30 p.m., Pete Buist, Type 1 fire information officer, negotiated a gravel road on the south side of the South Fork.

A few disparate lightning bolts fractured the sky followed by their booms caroming off rocky ridges like hammer blows. 

On the ridges, gray columns of smoke rose like warped monoliths to contrast perfectly against the purple sky. In a few isolated spots, flames ignited fleetingly only to flame out like spent kitchen matches. Patches of brown grass untouched by fire contrasted sharply with blackened zones that were overcome by flames.

“There is a story painted across that view,” Buist said.

The burn pattern indicated the fire’s behavior; how it ran Wednesday, Buist said.

The darkened areas illustrate where heavy fuels where, Pechota said. There was less fuel on the lower hills.
Powell firemen assess the Whit Fire on the South Fork Wednesday. Photo courtesy Damian Dicks
Fuels are trees, downed trees, grass and brush.

The fire ran uphill faster and slower downhill, Buist said.

Three factors drive fire: Fuel, topography and weather. In this scenario, weather, or more precisely, wind drove the fire, Buist said.

In some locations, black patches like meandering paths of asphalt reached nearly to homes and outbuildings.

One home was lost, and seven “minor structures,” according to Buist’s official notes. The official report says the cause is “still under investigation,” he said.

A homemade sign on the Lower South Fork Road (Road 6QS) reads, “Thank you firefighters.”

“That’s a morale-builder for us,” Buist said.

Matt Broyles, a task force leader, keeps an eye on his crew from the road. His job is to ensure resources such as hand crews and engines coordinate efficiently.

Firefighters conducting structure protection have been stationed on the North and South Forks, Buist said.

The fire behind structures is secure, but a few stumps may continue to smolder, Broyles said. It will continue to smoke for weeks, Buist said.

Broyles points south where a few small flames occasionally lick the sky, the end of what fire managers called the, “Division Whiskey burnout.”

Firefighters were conducting multiple burnouts on Sunday. That is, they torched areas to remove fuels to impede the fire’s advance, Buist said.

The gray smoke clung to the ridges and down the slopes like insidious morning fog. As the rain began, it seemed to ensnare the smoke, pinning it to the ground.

Truck after truck rolled down the mountain. The firefighters must sit out the storm for safety’s sake, Buist explained.

A storm rolled through the area Sunday afternoon. Cody News Co. photo by Gib Mathers
Lightning cracked again in a serrate line like a surly reminder of the power of nature.

“Another reason not to be on the mountain,” Buist said. The firefighters will deploy again once the weather front passes on.

The firefighters take advantage of their down time. Some nap, others chat or snack and one group in a crew cab crank up some AC/DC.

The rain does seem like manna from heaven, but there will be no celebrating yet.

“It’s not going to put the fire out, but it’s darned helpful,” Buist said.

On Monday, there were eight Type 1 hand crews, 10 Type 2 hand crews, 41 engines, four water tenders and one dozer, according to an update.

A hand crew is a 20-person team using hand tools. Water tenders haul water.

There were 717 people working the fire Monday. The Type 1 team will turn it over to a Type 3 team on Thursday.

Two Type 1 helicopters, two Type 2 helicopters, two Type 3 helicopters and two air attack platforms are on the fire.

Type 1 helicopters are like Chinooks with two big rotors. They can carry buckets or transport water internally with a capacity of up to 4,500 gallons. Type 2 helicopters, like Bell Hueys, pack buckets of up to 200 gallons. Type 3 helicopters are smaller ships used for observation. Air attack platforms are fixed wing or rotary aircraft, similar to traffic control, to direct aerial fire fighting.

A no stopping order and lower speed limit on U.S. Highway 14/16/20 near the Buffalo Bill Reservoir was lifted on Sunday and the reservoir was scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday afternoon. The Green Creek, Twin Creek and Sheep Mountain trails remained temporarily closed.

Aug 6, 2016

Whit Fire 15 percent contained; evacuation orders lifted

Fire crews managed to contain 15 percent of the Whit Fire on Friday, making “significant progress” on the fire’s northwestern edge.

Further, “ALL EVACUATIONS HAVE BEEN LIFTED!!” fire managers enthusiastically announced on Saturday morning. “Residents and landowners are now allowed back to their property.”

That’s good news for a couple hundred North and South Fork residents who’d been told to leave their homes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two of the CL415 (“Superscoopers”) parked at Yellowstone Regional Airport on Friday. Photo courtesy Bruce Salzmann/InciWeb
The Whit Fire, about 12 miles west of Cody, was estimated at roughly 10,200 acres on Saturday. Around 500 firefighters were working to snuff it out, with more on the way. The crew being supervised by Type 1 Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team on Saturday included 12 hand crews, 22 fire engines, three water tends, nine helicopters and seven airplanes.

Crews have been working on firelines to stop the fire’s growth to the north and south and have continued to “mop-up, assess, triage and patrol properties in the fire’s vicinity” on both the North and South Forks. Some crews were going to be ferried in by helicopter to the flanks of the fire on Saturday.

After roaring to 9,600 acres between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday night, the Whit Fire had relatively little growth on Thursday and Friday. However, Friday night cloud cover kept humidity lower and temperatures higher, so fire managers suspect it could be more active on Saturday.

Fire managers plan to hold another public meeting about the Whit Fire at 6 p.m. Saturday at Glenn Livingston Elementary School.

Authorities have said the fire appears to have been accidentally started by a person on Whit Creek Road, south of the North Fork Highway, on Tuesday afternoon.

Aug 5, 2016

‘Best of the best’ fighting Whit Fire west of Cody

Hundreds of firefighters have been summoned to fight a fire burning about 12 miles west of Cody on the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River.

A Type 1 management team — the most experienced type of firefighting crew — took over management of the 9,600 acre Whit Fire on Friday morning to continue working toward extinguishing the blaze.

One of the "Superscoopers" working the Whit Fire on Thursday evening. Photo courtesy Bruce Salzmann/Inciweb
“We’re going to try to take the threat out as soon as possible,” Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander said at a Thursday night meeting in Cody, adding, “It’s a complex event. We’ve got the right people here to take care of it.”

More than 230 firefighters were on the ground on Friday morning. Incident Commander Todd Pacheto predicted the number of personnel would eventually reach somewhere between 700 and 750 people.

As of Friday, a couple hundred North and South Fork residents remained under evacuation orders because of the fire. Park County Homeland Security Coordinator Mart Knapp said roughly 260 to 270 people had been directed to evacuate on Tuesday and Wednesday — though on Friday he figured that less than half of them had actually left their homes. (Update: all evacuation orders were lifted on Saturday morning.)

The fire began Tuesday afternoon on Whit Creek Road south of the North Fork Highway. Officials have not said how it started, but “it appears to have been human-caused, with no malicious intent — an accident,” said Bureau of Land Management Cody Field Manager Delissa Minnick.

Alexander said it was example of what can happen if “you get a spark at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong weather conditions.”

Fueled by high temperatures and dry, windy conditions, the fire had ripped across 9,600 acres by Wednesday night, spreading from the North Fork to the South Fork.

“As much as they tried to stop it and keep it in check ... with the terrain and fuels and (other environmental factors) ... there was just no stopping it,” said Cody Fire Marshal Sam Wilde. “It was going to do what it was going to do.”

One home and seven other structures had been destroyed as of Friday morning, according to the Park County Sheriff’s Office, but “it could have been a lot worse,” Wilde said.

He said it was “amazing” that the fire “went right around some of those homes (on the South Fork) and so (it was) very, very fortunate.”

Residents in the areas around the Whit Creek Road, Big Hat Ranch, Golden Key Ranch, Simek Ranch, and County Road 6NS and its connecting roads — including the Bear Creek Subdivision — all were told to evacuate between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening.

Incident Commander Todd Pacheto addresses an audience of more than 120 people on Thursday night.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lance Mathess encouraged people to obey those orders.

“Put your property, put your trust in these guys,” Mathess said, saying firefighters have already demonstrated “that trust is well deserved.”

Fire managers described the Whit Fire as having become very complex, very quickly.

“We’ve got a lot of rugged and rough terrain out there; we have incredibly dry fuels,” said Minnick, adding that “it’s very dangerous for firefighters in a lot of places.”

A group of local firefighters — including from the Cody and Powell volunteer fire departments, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service — led the initial attack.

A Type 3 incident team had been headed to the Dubois area to help with the Lava Mountain Fire, but were diverted to Cody when the Whit Fire broke out Tuesday. In an exceptionally quick turnaround, the team was at the scene and took control at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The commander of that Type 3 team, Andy Mandell, praised the “outstanding” work of local firefighters.

“They protected a lot of homes and worked some long hours,” Mandell said.
Wednesday proved a particularly stiff challenge.

“Shortly after (the Type 3) team arrived, things got pretty western out there,” said Minnick.

The Whit Fire sent up large columns of smoke during rapid Wednesday afternoon growth that pushed it into the Lower South Fork. Photo courtesy Yancy Bonner
She said high temperatures and wind gusts of up to 70 mph forced the teams to re-evaluate their tactics. That included having to back off the fire in some of the steeper places for the safety of firefighters, said Wilde.

Thanks to better weather and the work of firefighters, the Whit Fire had very little growth on Thursday.

Firefighters spent much of the day working to protect structures on both the North and South Forks.
Fire managers said their tactics will adapt as the fire evolves.

“We’re going to engage them (the firefighters) on this fire in ways that have a high probability of success,” Minnick said.

Friday’s fire fighting operations included 13 fire engines, nine helicopters, eight hand crews and seven airplanes — including four “Superscoopers.”

The planes and helicopters have been scooping water out of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, which has been entirely closed to the public to aid those efforts. The Sheriff’s Office is also asking residents not to stop along U.S. Highway 14/16/20 to watch the planes and to not drive up the South Fork Highway to watch the fire.

Another public meeting is tentatively set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Livingston Elementary School.

Cody child runs lemonade stand to help fire victims

If there's been a silver lining about the Whit Fire west of town, it may be the emerging stories about locals who have stepped up to help and support those impacted by the fire.

Not far from the doors of a Thursday meeting about the status of the Whit Fire, a young Cody boy was selling lemonade and his own homemade cookies to raise money for those impacted by the blaze.

Gonzalo Anzurez, “really wanted to go help with the fire” on Wednesday, explained his mother, Cyndi Anzurez, adding, “He was concerned about the people and their homes and their beds.”

After being told that he'd need to leave the firefighting to the professionals, Gonzalo’s response was, “Well, I can sell lemonade and give the money to the people that lost all their stuff.”

Gonzalo Anzurez poses for a photo with his lemonade stand outside Livingston Elementary School. Cody News Co. photo by Tessa Schweigert
Cyndi Anzurez said the original plan was to open the stand on Sunday, but “that was not soon enough” for Gonzalo.

In his remarks at the meeting, Cody Fire Marshal Sam Wilde specifically mentioned Gonzalo’s stand as an example of the community support that's been expressed.

“If that doesn’t touch you, I don’t know what will,” Wilde said.

He described the support for the Cody Volunteer Fire Department as “just amazing” — from the citizens who’ve donated water, Gatorade, granola and other items to the support of firefighters’ employers, wives and families.

That was a common theme among the various fire managers who spoke at Thursday’s public briefing, as they each took time to express thanks for the outpouring of support.

“It's made me incredibly proud to be a member of the Cody community,” said Delissa Minnick, the Bureau of Land Management's Cody Field Manager.

Aug 4, 2016

After injuries, city putting new restrictions on Cody Gunfighters

After a Friday mishap that injured three spectators, the City of Cody plans to implement some new restrictions before allowing the Cody Gunfighters to resume their nightly downtown performances with firearms.

“We cannot and will not compromise safety. No one in this room could in good conscience want to compromise the safety of our citizens and our visitors,” Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said at a Tuesday night council meeting. “And we’ve had an unfortunate situation and we need to rebound from it, but we need to rebound from it stronger and better than we were before.”

"We want to be as safe as anybody else," Cody Gunfighters member Don Bash told the council.
The Cody Gunfighters put on a free old West show in front of the Irma Hotel during the summer tourist season.

Cody police are still investigating what happened during Friday’s show, but it appears something was shot from one of the performers’ guns. Three tourists — including a 3-year-old child — suffered minor injuries, police have said; someone later told police that a “bullet” appeared to have also punctured a raft at the neighboring Red Canyon River Trips.

After the incident, Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker suspended the Cody Gunfighters’ authorization to discharge firearms in town. The group — which normally performs six nights a week — hasn’t put on a show since Friday.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to continue that suspension until the Cody Gunfighters meet new safety criteria crafted by chief Baker.

A draft of those rules presented at Tuesday’s meeting included a requirement for the Gunfighters to have an “independent gun safety manager” oversee all of their performances — including pre-show inspections of the actors’ guns. The Gunfighters would also need to provide the safety manager’s contact information to police.

Gunfighter Don Bash told the council that, since the incident, group members have discussed possible changes. One idea would be to require that all the guns in the show are used only for the show, being locked up between performances “so they don’t go home, so they don’t leave the premises and they’re loaded every day right there,” he said.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make it safer, too,” Bash said. “But we do have a good record.”

He said last week’s “unfortunate accident” came among more than 2,200 shows, performed for more than a million spectators over 19 years.

Mayor Brown told the Gunfighters that the city will act quickly.
“We want to be as safe as anybody else,” Bash said, noting, “We’re shooting at each other.”

He said the group will work with Baker “any way we can.”

A couple people spoke about the importance of the Cody Gunfighters to local tourism.

Jennifer Gould, the manager of the Cody and Powell WYogurt stores, said the performances’ impact on downtown Cody businesses is “amazing” and especially important in “one of the weakest (summers) that we’ve seen in a while.”

“The fact is that any little boost like that that we can see, helps us big-time. It gives us a little bit of hope,” Gould said, adding, “The last few days (it) hasn’t been that way, and it’s very sad. It’s very hard.”

Cody council members indicated they understood the urgency.

Until the Cody Gunfighters can work out the new procedures with the police chief, Cody councilman Donny Anderson asked if the group might perform with squirt guns or pop guns; Councilwoman Karen Ballinger suggested using cap guns.

“It’s not the intent to shut this show down. It’s just ... to get it as safe as it can possibly be,” Ballinger said.

“I think you have all of our support; we’re just in a bind right now,” said Anderson.

While no specific timeline was given for working out the new safety standards, mayor Brown told the gunfighters in attendance that, “We’ll try to get you guys back in business as soon as we can.”

Whit Fire grows to 9,600 acres; meeting set for Thursday evening

The Whit Fire claimed two structures on Tuesday and blazed its way from the North Fork to the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

The fire, burning about 15 miles west of Cody on the sides of Sheep Mountain, was reported Tuesday afternoon.

Whit Fire managers estimated its size at around 3,000 acres on Wednesday afternoon, but a overnight flight with infrared equipment later found the fire had grown to 9,647 acres. Wednesday was “a day of very active burning,” said Kristie Salzmann, Shoshone National Forest public affairs officer.

Fire managers have scheduled a 6 p.m. public meeting at Cody's Livingston Elementary School to share information about the fire and discuss their plans for fighting it.

A helicopter dumps water on an edge of the Whit Fire on Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy Yancy Bonner

As of Thursday morning, the Park County Sheriff's Office and Park County Office of Homeland Security had evacuated multiple areas on the North and South Forks: Whit Creek Road, the Big Hat Ranch, Golden Key Ranch, Simek Ranch and Road 6NS – including the Bear Creek Subdivision.

"All residents in the South and North Fork should monitor fire conditions closely and be prepared to leave at a moment's notice," the Sheriff's Office said in a Thursday morning Facebook post. In an earlier posting, the Sheriff's Office noted that it can not force anyone to leave their homes, "but rest assured that if we advise a mandatory evacuation, the situation is life-threatening and we strongly urge residents to leave under those conditions."

The Sheriff's Office said there's been a steady increase in the amount of traffic on the South Fork Highway because of curious onlookers; it asked people on Thursday to avoid the South and North Fork areas of the fire unless they live or have official business in the area.

"Also, it is a crime to interfere with fire fighting efforts so please stay away and let the fire fighters (do) their jobs," the office said in a post.

The Shoshone National Forest has closed the Green Creek and Twin Creek trails because of the blaze; the BLM has closed the Sheep Mountain Trail.

Approximately 175 people were working the Whit Fire as of Thursday morning, Salzmann said. That included seven helicopters, three air attack planes, 18 engines and three hands crews – including the Wyoming Interagency Hotshots and the Payson Interagency Hotshots.

A map of the Whit Fire, as of Wednesday night.
The Central West Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team took over operations on Wednesday, assisted by the Bureau of Land Management, Shoshone National Forest, Park County and the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

Area fire departments, BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming State Forestry personnel have all fought the fire, Salzmann said.

The Cody Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched early Tuesday afternoon and requested the Powell Volunteer Fire Department to provide mutual aid; Powell firefighters complied around 2 p.m. that day. Six Powell firefighters and their trucks were on the fire Tuesday afternoon and late into the evening.

Powell firefighters again were called to the scene by Park County Dispatch around 1 p.m., Wednesday and they expected to remain through the evening.

Authorities have not yet released any information about how the fire started, saying only that the cause is “under investigation.” Salzmann did say the fire began in grass and sagebrush and moved to areas with trees. She did not know what type of structures were destroyed by the fire on Tuesday.

The Whit Fire was zero percent contained as of Thursday morning.

Aug 2, 2016

Krone's first court date reset for Election Day

A Cody lawmaker charged with stealing more than $9,600 from a local lawyers' group is now scheduled to make his first court appearance on the day of the primary election.

On Friday, the Wyoming Attorney General's Office charged Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, with three felony and four misdemeanor counts of larceny or theft. The allegations are that, between March 2010 and October 2013, Krone used his position as Park County Bar Association treasurer to take $9,633.17 of the association's money for himself.

State Rep. Sam Krone
Krone has noted that he is innocent until proven guilty and says he's continuing with his bid for re-election in House District 24. He's being challenged in the Aug. 16 primary by fellow Republican Scott Court, also of Cody.

Krone was initially scheduled to make his first court appearance today (Tuesday) in Cody. On Monday, however, Krone asked presiding Circuit Court Judge Thomas Harrington of Worland to delay the hearing.

In support of his request, Krone said he didn't receive a complete copy of the charging documents until Monday; he also said he wanted to have a defense attorney before his initial appearance and that he was still "actively seeking" one as of Monday.

Judge Harrington granted the request late Monday afternoon and re-set Krone's initial appearance for 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 16.

The Wyoming Attorney General's Office had not objected to a delay.

Aug 1, 2016

Tourists reportedly injured at Cody Gunfighters' performance

Three tourists reportedly suffered minor injuries during a staged gun-fighting performance on Friday evening in downtown Cody.

The incident prompted Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker to temporarily suspend the Cody Gunfighters’ ability to discharge firearms in town; police continued to investigate what happened on Monday.

The Cody Gunfighters — generally volunteers — perform a nightly show Monday through Saturday, June through September, in the street in front of the Irma Hotel.

Cody Gunfighters Performance
The Cody Gunfighters stage a nightly show during the summer months. File photo courtesy The Irma Hotel
Cody police were called there around 6:30 p.m. Friday for a report of three people who “had been struck by some type of fragments from the Gunfighters’ show,” chief Baker said in a news release.

A 22-year-old man from New York was treated at the scene by a responding ambulance crew from West Park Hospital, the release said; two other people from Minnesota — a 37-year-old man and his 3-year-old daughter — went to West Park in a private vehicle, where they received treatment for minor injuries and were released, police said.

Responding officers “recovered evidence” and spoke with the victims, actors and other bystanders, Baker said.

“The prop weapons used (by the gunfighters) were inspected and taken as evidence,” he said, adding that everyone was cooperative.

Police logs say that, on Saturday morning, someone discovered that a raft at a nearby river rafting business had apparently been punctured in the incident, too.

The police department is asking anyone with with video or photos of Friday night’s performance to contact Detective Ron Parduba at 527-8727.

Baker said the case will be reviewed with the Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

It’s generally a violation of Cody’s municipal ordinances to discharge a firearm in the city, but the council grants special permission to the Cody Gunfighters each year.

At tonight’s (Tuesday’s) Cody City Council meeting, the council is scheduled to consider ratifying Baker’s decision to suspend the gunfighters’ ability to discharge firearms.

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