Wasatch Back residents urged to act now to protect property from wildfires
Wildland fires can be catastrophic to communities when they spread to urban and suburban areas. The severe drought in Utah has local fire officials on the offensive with programs that can help homeowners prepare.
A wildland fire urban interface community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, to prepare residents for the upcoming fire season. Park City Chief Building Official Dave Thacker said the current conditions are concerning, and it’s essential to educate the public.
The meeting will cover the wood chipping program for city residents and the plans for fire management of open space.
Thacker said Park City’s Emergency Manager Mike McComb will talk about evacuation plans, and Department of Natural Resources representatives will discuss the dry forest conditions around the city.
“Dead and dying timbers you know and a lot of ladder fuels in the mountainous areas and so we wanted to be able to talk about that and discuss with folks what they can do in their own areas.”
Thacker said the city has a wildland interface code, and all new construction and remodel projects must comply.
“The Park City building department and my department do go out, and we do perform those property assessments. We'd like to involve the community with that. So as one person will reach out and ask for something specific on their property, we'll reach out to an HOA. We’ll make sure that anyone within that HOA who's interested is also able to attend because although there are a lot of specifics to individual properties, a lot of the information that we're going to share can be used on other properties as well.”
After more than three decades working in the firefighting profession, retiring Wasatch County Fire Chief Ernie Giles said he is very concerned about the severe drought conditions in the Wasatch Back. He said the key is to be smart about how parched everything is and understand that even hot metal near fuel sources can cause a fire if the conditions are dry enough. All the construction in Wasatch County presents a big concern.
“Construction that's carrying on in these urban interface areas and mountain places, [we’re] just trying to caution them to make sure they have water where they're beginning. I mean, a spark off a track-hoe or even the tracks, as dry as this will be this year. I'm afraid it's going to be worse.”
Giles added that summer cabin owners need to be familiar with fire restrictions. He said many people don’t realize that green trees can be a fuel that will burn quickly.
“But the moisture level in some of these heavy timbers is as low as they've seen in over 15 to 20 years. You know, just caution as you're working with any sort of open flame, grinding, welding, anything to that effect. In these areas, we just have to caution people that they have some sort of suppression with them in case something does happen.”
Fire safety programs and information is on the Wasatch County Fire website.
The Park City Wildland Urban Interface meeting is Tuesday, May 3, from 6 to 8 pm at the Jim Santy Auditorium. The meeting is available to join remotely through a zoom link found on bereadyparkcity.org.