Badger Creek Fire flares up, closes highway

LARAMIE (WNE) – Smoke filled the air again Thursday in Laramie as the Badger Creek Fire fed off warm, dry weather conditions.

Wyoming Highway 230 was closed because dangerous conditions as billowing smoke from the fire spread across the area.

Fire Information Officer Deana Harms said there are currently no evacuation or pre-evacuation orders at this time.

Harms said recent hot, dry and windy weather created the ideal conditions for such a flare up.

According to a Facebook post from Badger Creek Fire officials, the fire started to burn areas that it originally missed as it moved through the area. Smoke is expected throughout the week as hot and dry conditions persist.

Foot, vehicle and drone traffic is still prohibited, as it is not only dangerous to the individual, but it forces firefighters to engage with the public, according to the Facebook post. That can lead to time and resources wasted that would otherwise be used to contain the fire.

More than 100 firefighters remain at the sight, but that is expected to decrease in coming days. The fire has consumed 20,357 acres to date and is 97 percent contained.

Officials advised the public to be cautious as heat remains in the interior. Fire-weakened and beetle-killed trees can fall without warning. Stump holes and ash pits also remain a danger to anyone who wanders from the established roadways in the fire’s interior.

Man charged in workers’ 

compensation fraud case

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A Utah man is facing charges in Laramie County District Court alleging he defrauded the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services out of more than $62,500.  

Michael Pittman faces two charges of making false statements after investigators from the Department of Workforce Services accused Pittman of forcing his employees in Utah to file workers’ compensation claims under a fake address in Wyoming. 

If convicted, Pittman could spend a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or be required to pay a $20,000 fine. 

According to court documents, in July 2015, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Special Investigation Unit received information from the Utah Department of Insurance with suspicions that Pittman could be connected to false compensation claims being filed in Wyoming. 

The information contained allegations Pittman could be engaging in “premium avoidance” for various roofing companies he created in Wyoming and Utah. 

On July 11, 2014, one of Pittman’s employees filed a claim saying he fell from a roof in Torrington while working for Weatherguard Roofing LLC. The man stated he lived in Wyoming. 

Further investigation revealed the man lived in Utah, not Wyoming. 

The man told investigators Pittman told him to file the claim in Wyoming and use a false address. 

As a result of that claim, the Department of Workforce Services paid $41,579.59. 

On Dec. 17, 2014, another man working for Pittman filed a claim in Wyoming for an injury that occurred in Park City, Utah. The man claimed he lived at the Torrington address. He was actually a Utah resident. 

Text messages provided by the second man show that Pittman had directed another employee to tell the man to file the claim with the state of Wyoming.

The employee told investigators that Pittman threatened to withhold employee wages if they didn’t file the claims in Wyoming.  

Inmate captured after 

stealing gun, car

EVANSTON (WNE) – An inmate who police say assaulted a sheriff’s deputy at the Uinta County courthouse, took her gun and stole a car at gunpoint is in custody after a brief manhunt in Evanston. 

Jonathan Olivares, 25, was apprehended at approximately 11:15 a.m. in the area of 100 Main Street on Tuesday, June 26. 

Olivares was in Third District Court that morning, where he pleaded not guilty to delivering heroin and wrongly taking or concealing a stolen car. As he was being escorted out of the courtroom, he allegedly attacked and struck the female deputy. 

Evanston Police Lt. Ken Pearson said Olivares then stole a car from a local woman, Debbie Garrison, at gunpoint and fled the scene in a 2008 blue Ford Escape. 

An ambulance was called to stage in the parking lot of the Uinta County Library to attend to the injured deputy, who was treated for minor injuries and released. 

Olivares was able to elude law enforcement for approximately 30 minutes. 

The stolen vehicle was spotted by an alert firefighter near the intersection of 6th and Front streets and followed until officers were able to catch up to the suspect. 

A brief vehicle pursuit occurred before Olivares was apprehended and taken into custody. 

Prisoners transported to and from the courthouse are handcuffed and also have ankle chains and waist chains, restricting their ability to move quickly. In circuit court, those restraints remain unaltered.

In district court, however, prisoners’ handcuffs are routinely taken off just before entering the courtroom and put back on in the hallway just after leaving the courtroom. 

That was the moment Olivares seized, according to Sheriff Matthews. 

After overpowering the deputy and taking her gun, Matthews said, Olivares also took the deputy’s keys and was able to unlock his ankle and waist chains. 

Pinedale not to enforce political sign ordinance on 

private property

PINEDALE (WNE) – A messy ordinance for political signs will be left alone until after the elections, but the Pinedale’s town enforcement officer and town attorney were directed not to enforce the ordinance on private property. 

Pinedale Mayor Matt Murdock explained the status during the June 25 Pinedale Town Council meeting. 

Murdock said, “We have an ordinance that is very messy and we are very uncomfortable enforcing it on private property.” 

He said during the June 11 council meeting, it was acknowledged that “election signs” are not allowed in the municipal limits until 30 days before an election, July 22. 

Then it is expected that the signs will be taken down and not replaced until 30 days before the November election. 

“The intent is, we don’t want to be overrun with political signs during our busiest season,” Murdock said. 

He characterized the ordinance as “an overreach going onto private property and removing signs.” 

He said the town would enforce and remove signs in public rights-of-way. 

Murdock said the town’s enforcement officer and attorney were directed not to cite or prosecute anyone with signs on private property. 

“We ask that you respect the intent and purpose of the ordinance,” Murdock said. “Enforcement and discretion would lie with me and I choose not to enforce.” 

He added, “Our biggest conflict are the rights-of-way on Main Street; we want it clean and

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