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With Fire Season Just Around the Corner, Park City Highlights How You Can Help Reduce the Risk

Courtesy Utah Division Forestry Fire State Lands

Fire season in the Park City area is at its height from roughly June to late August. With a lower than average snowpack this winter meaning less water and drier forests, Park City highlighted some of their fire mitigation efforts at Tuesday’s coffee with council discussion.


Wildfires are always in the back of people’s minds during the summer months in the west. Record-breaking fires in California and Colorado in recent years, as well as a number of fires here in Utah, have led some to worry about how vulnerable Park City is to serious wildfire.


The good news? According to Tuesday’s panel of Park City Councilor Tim Henney, Park City Fire Chief Paul Hewitt, Fire Marshall Mike Owens, Park City Emergency Manage Mike McComb, and Water Resources Manager Jason Christensen, Park City is not like Paradise, California, which was largely destroyed by wildfire in 2018.


What is cause for concern, Christensen said, is Utah’s current drought and low snowpack levels. Utah Governor Spencer Cox declared a statewide drought emergency in March, with 90% of the state experiencing what is considered extreme drought. According to Christensen, snowpack is roughly what it was in 2018.


Christensen said Park City draws its water from seven different sources, but they all rely on snowmelt each year. He added that one low winter can be managed, but several in a row are something to worry about.   


“So we have a really diverse portfolio of water sources, but at the end of the day, all those sources are fed by snowmelt and when we see a year like this, we’re grateful that the community has diversified, that we have a variety of options to pull water from, but what really concerns us is the idea that next year could be like this as well,” said Christensen


Something unique to Park City that could help insulate the community from fire are the city’s two ski resorts, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley.


Fire Marshall Owens said the district coordinates with both resorts on fire contingency plans and commended them for their efforts to reduce risks during their summer operations and maintenance work.


Chief Hewitt added the most defining feature of a ski resort can also help prevent a wildfire from getting out of control.


“Take a Google Map and take a look at it,” Hewitt said. ”Every ski run is a firebreak. You do a global view of our area, we have a lot of firebreaks that were created just in ski runs, and aside from that, we have other firebreaks that the ski resort. If you look at Google Maps and do some zoom-ins and zoom-outs, it will give you a little bit of comfort to know and see what the ski resorts are doing.”


The number one thing locals can do to help reduce the risk of wildfire is create a perimeter of defensible space around their homes. The Park City Fire District recommends at least 30 feet of defensible space around a home, with thinned tree and brush cover, a roof and gutters free of debris, as well as the disposal of any yard waste you might have.


To help dispose of unwanted yard waste and encourage residents to create defensible space, the fire district will start up their yearly chipping and shredding program on April 20th. 


More information on defensible space and the chipping and shredding program can be found here.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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