Lander should focus on fires – not floods, councilmember says

Dan Hahn was the only member of the Lander City Council who voted “no” last month when the council accepted a study about a potential floodwall on Fremont Street.

His opposition was based on his experience fighting fires in Lander, he said.

“We are in the middle of drought conditions, which bring up a lot more fire danger than chance of flooding at this time,” Hahn said. “The probability of a major fire in town is a lot more likely. …

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“We need to be addressing the river bottom going through town and reduce those fuels to make the town safer.”

He had talked about the issue during a council meeting in April, recalling a fire that had just taken place in the Macmanus Park area, adjacent to the Popo Agie River.

“It was very, very scary, and very dangerous,” Hahn said. “If it would’ve got into that heavy, brushy stuff (in the river bottom) and went up the hill – yeah, we’d have been in trouble. …

“People should be concerned.”

Instead, he said, the city is “working on flood mitigation for a 100-year flood … in the middle of a hot, dry drought with a lot of wind.”

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“Maybe we should be working on fire mitigation on the river bottom,” he suggested. “I don’t think people really understand how dangerous all this is.”

Lander Mayor Monte Richardson agreed that fire mitigation is “one of the top things on our list,” noting that he has been in conversation with city staff, local firefighters, and land management officials about the topic.

“Hopefully we can work that way and start moving on it,” Richardson said.

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