Tollgate Wildfire Gives Residents A Chance To Assess Emergency Procedures
A wildfire was started in Tollgate Canyon by a trailer chain sparking off a boulder on the only public access road into the mountain subdivision north of I-80 between Park City and Coalville. No property damage resulted and the 200 or so full-time residents learned a lot about emergency preparedness. Carolyn Murray has this:
The Tollgate Canyon fire spread quickly to 300 acres on July 30th when a spark caused dry grasses along the canyon road to ignite. Homeowners used social media to alert neighbors and keep each other informed of the dangers it posed. Luckily the winds were in their favor and it did not threaten the 400 mountain homes that are part of the Pine Meadows Ranches subdivision. Another fire started Wednesday from a lightning strike on Elk Road but it was doused quickly.
The Homeowners Association President, Tony Tyler says they have a very active HOA board but there are about 200 lots that are private property and not affiliated with Pine Meadows Ranches HOA. The incident has mobilized residents to put emergency communications services in place.
“There is now an organized group of residents that are putting together a call list and a centralized source of information. I think it’s google sheet. We will try to get some of the information up on the Pine Meadow HOA website. You know it was really and interesting dynamic seeing how the communication really happened during the fire because it was a very active phone tree and Facebook messages and obviously KPCW that everyone was listening to and trying to get updates on.”
Some residents commented that if outdoor watering was allowed the mountain terrain would not be so vulnerable. Tyler says it’s not possible with the water sources they have.
”The water rights that exist with the state under the mutual water company, don’t allow for outside water use. The source is very limited in the canyon and it’s strictly used for indoor use.”
There is a hydrant on the lower part of the road but it is limited in its capacity. Tyler says there are several small ponds on the mountain and this time one was used to help fight the fire.
“Once you get further up the ranch, there’s a more dedicated system. That system is actually a combined effort between the Mountain Regional Water source that’s connected to the Pine Meadow Ranch Mutual Water Company as well. So, we have the ability to both feed Mountain Regional Water into the Pine Meadow Ranch in the event of an emergency and the same is true the other way around. Two helicopters constantly pulling water out of the pond. And it did drain the pond by a few feet. But it’s recovered nicely and it’s up to where it usually is this time of year. What I would say is there’s no option off the table at this point. We’re trying to do everything we can to gather those opinions and help create a better plan moving forward."
The neighborhood has one public road access and in emergencies, there’s a crash gate for road access through the Red Hawk development. There are jeep roads that have been around for 50 years and Tyler says they are not all passable.
“Those roads still exist in some compacity. They are not maintained at all. I’ve also been told that in the event of an emergency where both other accesses are closed off that the sheriff’s office has the right to allow people to cross private property.”
Tyler says the emergency response was immediate.
“You know we had at least four different districts that I know of responding within 10 to 15 minutes of the fire starting. We had aircraft…multiple different types of aircraft. We had a lot of different equipment on the mountain. You know, they really came out in force to protect both the homeowners up in Tollgate Canyon and the surrounding areas. It could have jumped across to Promontory or wrapped around the corner to Blue Sky.”
Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt says with lightening strikes there can often be fires that start and just smolder for long periods. They depend on people calling 911 when they see smoke and he doesn’t care if he gets 20 calls about the same thing.