The leaves along the Wasatch Mountains are losing their luster and evening temperatures are dropping, but the wildfire season isn't officially over until there is a blanket of snow covering the dry grass and underbrush that has proven so volatile this summer.
Even with the scorched hillsides still brutally evident in Wanship, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. And, unfortunately, the lessons learned from the Rockport Fire that destroyed eight homes and forced the evacuation of more than 200 people may fade before homeowners take heed.
Aerial photographs proved what firefighters have been saying all along that homeowners, especially those who live in wooded areas, need to be proactive about protecting their properties from wildland fires. As evidenced by the fast-moving brushfire that swept through Rockport Estates and Bridge Hollow last month, the homes where brush and trees had been cleared away escaped unscathed.
In an effort to ensure that everyone gets that message, Summit County, the Park City Fire District and Park City Municipal are hosting a free Community Wildfire Preparedness Fair on Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Park City Fire District Station on Bitner Road.
At the event, property owners throughout the area will be able to learn more about creating a defensible space around their homes and outbuildings. There will also be information and demonstrations about what to do in case of fire offered by local firefighters as well as the state Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.
As those in Wanship learned, when a lightning bolt strikes a hillside, there is barely time to gather family and animals, let alone material possessions. And there is certainly not enough time to cut down leafy branches or remove dead trees that should have been hauled away long before.
Despite the valiant efforts of local and state firefighters, no one can predict or prevent wildfires. But communities can substantially lessen the human risks and reduce property damage by being prepared. The upcoming Wildfire Preparedness Fair, along with fresh memories of the 1,500-acre Rockport Fire, should provide strong incentives to put good intentions into action.