Swaner EcoCenter presentation looks at life after Parleys Canyon wildfire

Registration open for a virtual talk and on-site hike

‘Life After Wildfire’ Virtual Talk

‘Life After Wildfire’ Hike

The Parleys Canyon Fire in August 2021, as seen from S.R. 224 near the McPolin Barn, is the subject of the Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter’s “Life After Wildfire” virtual talk and on-site hike next week. The fire scorched more than 540 acres and evacuated more than 5,000 families.
Park Record file photo by Tanzi Propst

The Parleys Canyon fire torched 541 acres between Lambs Canyon and Summit Park and evacuated 5,000 households in the area during the summer of 2021.

Since then the area has gone through a period of regeneration, and the Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter wants to give members of the public a first-hand view with “Life After Wildfire,” which will include a virtual talk on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and in-person hike on Thursday, Oct. 5, facilitated by J. Bradley Washa, said Hunter Klingensmith, visitor experience and exhibit manager.

“Brad is an assistant professor of wildland fire science in the Wildland Resources Department at Utah State University’s Extension, and we’ve worked with him on other presentations and other conversations at the EcoCenter,” she said. “We’ve been chatting with him to collaborate on this, which is a couple of years after the fire.”

Washa has a 33-year career in federal wildland fire management, and retired in 2022 as the State Fuels Specialist with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah.

we’ll walk about two to two-and-a-half miles through a lot of undergrowth, because there isn’t really a trail that goes through.” Hunter Klingensmith, Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter visitor experience and exhibit manager

He also worked for the BLM in Oregon, and the US Forest Service on the Cibola and Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forests in New Mexico and Colorado, said Klingensmith.

Wasah lives in Pinebrook, and is working with local residents to create resilient communities and forests, said Klingensmith.

“During the virtual talk on Wednesday, he’ll talk about his experiences in his career, and talk about the efforts that are taking place that will help control future fires,” she said. 

Members of the public can register for just the virtual talk or they can register for both the talk and hike, Klingensmith said. 

The talk will take place on Zoom, and registrants will receive emailed instructions with the link access, she said.

“We’ll record the talk as well, so people who register, but aren’t able to participate at that time will be able to watch later,” said Klingensmith.

As a word of caution, Klingensmith said the hike the next day will be strenuous.

“Getting to the wildfire burn scar won’t be easy,” she said. “My guess is that we’ll walk about two to two-and-a-half miles through a lot of undergrowth, because there isn’t really a trail that goes through. And it’s also very steep terrain.”

Washa is working with Salt Lake County and other organizations to facilitate the hike, Klingensmith said.

Senator Mitt Romney films a short promotional video, speaking about the dangers of wildfires in the changing climate, during a site visit to the Parleys Canyon Fire burn area on Aug. 27, 2021. Participants who sign up for the Swaner Preserve & EcoCenter’s “Life After Wildfire” hike on Oct. 5, will get to visit the site and hear from J. Bradley Washa, assistant professor of wildland fire science in the Wildland Resources Department at Utah State University’s Extension.
Park Record file photo by Tanzi Propst

“He’s been to the scar a few times, and he took a practice hike to survey the area,” she said. “And we’ll be able to access one of the private roads to get closer to the scar.”

Klingesmith recommends people who sign up for the hike will also watch the virtual webinar.

“We aren’t planning to cover the exact same material on the hike as we do during the talk,” she said. “The talk will give more background and information about the fire, and during the hike we’ll talk about how the fire impacted the landscape and what we’ll see in terms of the regeneration of the vegetation. “

The group will also get to ask Washa questions about what they are seeing in terms of regrowth and alleviation of the area, Klingensmith said.

“It’s been interesting to see the mitigation efforts that have been taking place since then,” she said. “And it seemed like a good opportunity to get people out on site to see the changes that are happening since the fire.” 

A helicopter carries a bucket of water over Summit Park during the Parleys Canyon Fire in August 2021. Families in Summit Park, Timberline and upper Pinebrook were evacuated.
Park Record file photo by Tanzi Propst

The “Life After Wildfire” program comes a couple of weeks after Park City Film recently screened Trip Jennings’ documentary “Elemental: Reimagine Wildfire,” which follows residents who narrowly escaped the 2018 wildfire named Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed 18,804 structures within 153,336 acres of Paradise, California.

Klingensmith remembers when Park City Film Executive Director Katharine Wang and her family were evacuated from their homes during the Parleys Canyon Fire.

“We were on the phone planning a collaboration, and Katy mentioned that she wasn’t at her home,” she said. “We also have one person on staff who lives in the area, and I remember that there were a lot of texts going back and forth, asking if everything was OK.”

Klingensmith looks forward to participating in these events.

“I have not, yet, been to the fire scar, so the hike will be interesting,” she said. “It will also be interesting to hear how we are learning how to live with wildfires as we start to see them burning hotter and larger than in the past. I feel this is also important, because wildfires are things we’ll have to live through in the far future.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.