In recent years, the Western United States has experienced extreme and destructive wildfires. On Wednesday, a panel of emergency responders will discuss how to protect Summit and Wasatch Counties’ lands and communities, as Utah gears up for hot, dry weather.
Park City Chief Building Official Dave Thacker says it’s important for local communities that are in a wildland-urban interface—where human development meets the wilderness—to engage in a conversation about preventing and responding to wildfires.
"When a wildfire starts, it’s not necessarily where it is, but it’s where it’s going to go and how we work with our other communities to ensure that we can create a safe community, and help at least slow the fire, if one should start," Thacker said.
As the City’s chief building official, Thacker also serves as the fire code official. His office works to minimize the impact of fires by ensuring all new and updated structures have features that prevent fires from spreading.
"Whether that be fire sprinklers on the interior of the home, or if we're looking at defensible space on the exterior of the home for new-built construction, we like to make sure that we're doing all that we can to prepare a structure, should something catastrophic start," Thacker said.
One issue that could arise during a wildfire in a canyon that’s surrounded by vegetation, like Park City, is evacuating safely. With two main traffic corridors out of town, Thacker says developing a strategy to move quickly in case of a wildfire is crucial.
"There are definitely points where traffic does get compressed, and it’s really hard to get through there," Thacker said. "Planning ahead and being able to find a way to get to those main arteries, and then figuring out a way from there—that may mean that there is an alternative method, whether that be on foot or something else, but trying to get away from the danger itself."
The “Era of Megafires” documentary screening starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Jim Santy Auditorium, followed by a panel discussion featuring state, regional and local agencies.