With a blanket of snow covering the forest floor, it might seem like an odd time to be talking about wildfires. But, since many fire districts and homeowners associations are currently allocating their budgets for the coming year, fire protection planning should be on the top of the agenda.
The Pine Meadow subdivision, located in the rugged, wooded terrain north of Interstate 80 in Summit County, has already begun laying the groundwork for annexation into the North Summit Fire District. No doubt homeowners there still have vivid memories of last summer's fast-moving Rockport fire that darkened their skies but thankfully never jumped the freeway. They are smart to be joining forces with the North Summit firefighters who proved their extraordinary skills by preventing any loss of life and significantly limiting property damage during that sudden conflagration.
The leaders of the Summit Park Homeowners Association are also trying to make their neighborhood safer by establishing a fund to maintain their existing firebreaks. But they are running into resistance from some homeowners. Their hope is to raise funds by making their HOA dues mandatory. As proposed, the fee would be $50 per year, which seems like a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with wildfire prevention.
Ten years ago, Summit Park was praised for its community-wide fire prevention efforts that included public education, removal of deadwood and clearing branches away from structures. The neighborhood also applied for and received funding to establish a fire break along its borders. At the time Summit Park was heralded as a "Firewise Community."
We are hoping that residents come around again and support their leaders' efforts to be proactive before the summer heat and wildfire worries return.
And they aren't the only communities that should be engaging in similar discussions. From the foothills of the Uinta Mountains to the Jordanelle, and from Deer Crest to the northern reaches of the Snyderville basin, property owners, neighbors, service districts and associations should be taking a hard look at their fire protection plans and setting aside funds to ensure they are carried out.
When the next wildfire ignites in their area they will be considered heroes for their foresight.