Forest mitigating fire risk
Ryan Summerlin July 9, 2013
This year’s fire season so far has proven to be much tamer than last year’s, but that shouldn’t give Summit County residents a false sense of security. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is doing all it can this season to ensure that wildfires are prevented.
Forest Service Assistant Fire Management Officer Brook Chadwick addressed the current fire danger in the Uintas. Fuel loads this year, Chadwick says, are about average, but that’s not the greatest risk the forest is facing.
"The risk that we’re experiencing this year is partly due to a very low snow pack," Chadwick said. "So our trees and a lot of our vegetation are just stressed anyways; it didn’t get the recharge of moisture that it should over the winter. We went 36 days without any significant rain."
Chadwick noted that now is the time of year that plants take up moisture in order to remain green throughout most of the season. However, because of the recent drought-related weather and heat, plants are stressed and drying out more quickly.
Even with the recent precipitation, Chadwick explained, fire danger remains high. That’s because statewide dryness won’t allow any amount of moisture to linger for long.
"Even with rain, it was scattered, not widespread. Some places got very little to no rain," Chadwick said. "It won’t take long before that’s gone. It will be a very short, moderated time period before fuels are dry again."
According to Chadwick, the forest right now is in the "very high" to "extreme" risk category. Although wildfires themselves often cannot be prevented, he says the Forest Service is doing everything it can to educate the public about the dangers.
Even with the uncontrollable nature of wildfires, Chadwick says there are steps forest managers can take to mitigate risk. Part of the prevention effort lies in the Forest Service’s Hazardous Fuels Reduction program, which addresses dry brush and trees that have accumulated and pose great risk. The forest also looks at hazardous fuels that are situated near local communities.
"We try to manipulate vegetation around communities and infrastructure so that if and when a fire starts in those areas, it creates an environment where it’s safer for firefighters to be, and maybe those homes will even be protected if we’re not there," Chadwick said.
Chadwick stresses that Utah is still in the midst of fire season and to continue to take all necessary precautions to prevent wildfire.
Campfire restrictions remain in place for all of the following locations, and prohibited are campfires and wood stoves with a quarter mile of all campsites: