Officials brace for wildfires
July 10, 2007
Forest officials are crossing their fingers that hordes of campers won’t ignite another dangerous wildfire like the one burning in central Utah.
Because the landscape is dry, campfires are only allowed in approved fire pits and not so-called dispersed camping sites in the forest, warned Cathy Kahlow, the Kamas district ranger for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
Kahlow added that fireworks are always banned on federal lands.
Last week, a statewide fireworks ban took effect in Utah.
"The only ones that are legal are the professional shoots and there will be citations issued for open campfires, charcoal grills and fireworks Most people when I show up are very understanding and just put their fire out," Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said. "We’re at extreme risk."
Summit County Attorney David Brickey said he will aggressively prosecute violators.
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"As the Milford Fire shows, there are huge ramifications with the dry season we have had this year," Brickey said Monday about a fire in central Utah blamed for two people’s deaths. "The tragedy of two people dying is something we want to avoid."
Fires are only allowed in paid campgrounds "where it’s patrolled by a ranger," he said, adding that campfires must be lit in approved metal fire pits with at least 15 feet of overhead clearance.
Meanwhile, firefighters in Park City quickly doused a grass fire that scorched about an acre north of westbound Interstate 80 in Summit Park on Sunday. Boyer said he was unsure what started the fire.
"We’ve got multiple large fires going in Utah," Boyer said, adding that the nation’s wildland firefighters are spread thin battling many blazes in the West.
Last week, state and federal Type I fire restrictions took effect in Utah.
"Several people have been having campfires thinking that because they’re in a cabin area they can still have fires," Boyer said. "If you’re not there full time then they’re not legal."
Even with red flag warnings in place people are still burning brush piles in their yards, he lamented, adding that "there is no open burning."
A small wildfire started near Marion in South Summit on Sunday after campers from the Wasatch Front failed to properly extinguish their illegal campfire, Boyer alleged.
"There is no open burning except in paid campgrounds in the entire state at this point," he said.