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Wanship fire response highlights water supply concerns

Wanship fire.jpg
Jackie Ball
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Jackie Ball
A barn burned Sunday in Wanship in a fire that spread to 40 acres before being contained Monday.

Less than 24 hours after a community meeting about water supply, Wanship briefly ran out of water while crews fought a 40-acre structure fire Sunday. Residents say the town needs more water.

Hoytsville resident Jolene Christenson, who also owns property in Wanship, was at the Wanship Mutual Water Company meeting Saturday night. The meeting addressed the need for more water capacity for the town, and officials said they plan to apply for grants that could help improve the system that was last upgraded in the 1960s.

“There’s not enough water in our system, you know since we’re in rural areas out here our systems are not to where they should be, and if there is a fire, we’re all sitting ducks,” she said.

The very next day, a structure fire on Old Lincoln Highway spread quickly, burning 40 acres before being fully contained mid-morning Monday. That effort required multiple agencies, including a helicopter making drops of water drawn from Rockport Reservoir.

Jackie Ball is a lifelong Wanship resident who lives three doors down from where the fire started.

For a brief time while crews were fighting the fire, Ball said only a few drops of water were coming out of her faucet. She wasn’t complaining but said she worries about the future as the area grows.

“I actually am happy with the response," she said, "because I couldn’t have asked for - we had all three, we had South Summit, North Summit, and Park City on scene very quickly. Then the Bureau of Land Management brought in. So I was happy with that. But, if we have a water shortage problem, none of that is going to work if we don’t have water to put in the system.”

T.J. Bates, who sits on the Wanship Mutual Water Company board of directors, said his company told fire officials to source water from elsewhere when the town’s 115,000 gallon tank almost hit empty as crews drew from it.

After that, North Summit Fire District Chief Ben Nielson said firefighters shuttled water from the nearby gas station via a 4000-gallon water tender. Nielson praised the response on Monday, saying that the quote “North Summit Fire District is back.”

Wanship has a population of 481, according to 2020 Census data, and the Wanship water tank serves 90-100 households. Bates said water pressure in homes dropped temporarily during firefighting, but that the tank was never completely empty. He said the tank should be fully refilled Tuesday.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Bates said upgrading the water system to a larger tank would cost several million dollars, and the company is currently seeking grants to do so.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.
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