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Union Pass

Union PassAs long-term drought focused attention nationwide on the potential dangers of wildland fire, the Wind River District of the US Forest Service called a meeting of area residents to discuss the specific conditions that were being identified in the Union Pass area relative to that danger. That meeting was the trigger event that has evolved over the past several years into a much broader based program, including the grass-roots organization of residents that we call UPEPC (most easily pronounced U-Pepsi).

Union PassThe UPEPC was officially founded in the spring of 2003, representing a set of ten small subdivisions (300+ individual properties) of mostly part-time residents, all branching out along an 8-10 mile main county road leading into the Shoshone National Forest, which, along with some Bureau of Land Management land, bounds the subdivisions. Though its official structure is still minimal, the UPEPC has begun to focus on the work that needs to be done within and by the neighborhood to lessen the impact of fire endangerment due to the preponderance of vast stands of Lodgepole Pine with which we are surrounded.

However, the organization did not happen without a series of contacts and assistance from other organizations along the way.

Union PassOur first long-term source of advice and inspiration as a neighborhood came through the Wyoming Division of Forestry and Mark "Oly" Ellison. Oly enlisted a local resident to serve as part-time coordinator for what became the Fremont County Wildland Fire Management Project and the educational part of specifics that needed immediate attention began.

Union PassIt soon became apparent that the scope of the project needs would require full-time professional management, and Shad Cooper was hired by our county fire district to coordinate and guide the next steps to extensive concrete actions. Additional prior groundwork was laid through Shad's immediate and extensive focus on research, setting of objectives, and communications contacts among a myriad of related agencies. A community-produced emergency information survey project was created to acquire voluntary data from individual property owners that would help local emergency responders.

At that point, to complement and enhance the work that Shad was undertaking on our behalf, we knew we needed more than just the loose group we called the "steering committee" and developed a more structured and coordinated area-wide entity. With a statement of purpose and a set of proposed projects hammered out, and with Shad's connections with Firewise in place, we then reached out to the entire Union Pass community for general membership support and participation.

Fremont County Firewise has worked in cooperation with the UPEPC, the USFS-Shoshone National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management, the Wyoming State Forestry Division, the Fremont County Fire Protection District, the Dubois Fire Protection District and several other local, state and federal agencies to achieve numerous fire protection goals for the Union Pass community, including:

  • The development of a large scale evacuation plan which was tested through a table-top exercise with all major agencies participating
  • The formation of a community slash pile for residents to use while reducing fuels on their property; the Shoshone National Forest has worked closely with the residents to provide the slash pile location and pile burning expertise while the residents provided enforcement, which included limiting the materials allowed in the slash pile and the necessary maintenance for the slash pile
  • The water source improvement project which will provide two 12,000 gallon underground water storage tanks for use in fire suppression for the community
  • Numerous property assessments which result in site specific wildfire mitigation plans for landowners in the community
  • A community communications plan to aid in the notification and response of local fire resources
  • Several state and federal fuel breaks and fuel reduction projects designed to protect the community from wildfires that may threaten to enter the community
  • Hosting a statewide Firewise Communities Workshop
  • Developing a community-wide GIS mapping project
  • Promoting a red fire number property identification awareness campaign
  • The installation of a Firewise information community kiosk
  • The promotion of native species and Firewise plants in the community

See additional information about the current status of UPEPC on its website within the Fremont County Firewise website.