June 28 editorial | ParkRecord.com

June 28 editorial

Homeowners share responsibility for keeping flames at bay

It took just a whiff of charred lumber, one glimpse of a beautifully restored home being scorched by flames, to remind Old Town property owners of their vulnerability to the city’s old archenemy fire.

Friday morning, as horrified neighbors watched fire crews try to contain a raging blaze on upper Norfolk, they were no doubt evaluating how their own homes would fare in a similar disaster. One neighbor said she had already called a roofer to look at her brittle old cedar shingles.

While keeping a wary eye on the yellowish brown smoke belching from under the eaves of the Angel House, Park City’s fire chief Kelly Gee said the blaze was still out of control. He shook his head remembering past fires and the unique challenges posed by Old Town’s steep hillsides. Nearby, Park City’s chief building official, Ron Ivie, was rummaging for clues about the origin of the fire.

It is likely Gee and Ivie will not rest until they know exactly how and why an otherwise beautiful summer morning in Park City was marred by dark smoke and two ruined houses. Over the last 25 years, both have preached about fire protection. Ivie has pushed for tougher enforcement of building codes and Gee has wrangled with water companies, demanding they expand fire-suppression reserves, and cajoled homeowners to trim trees and ornamental bushes.

Their cause has not always been popular. Property owners sometimes bristle at the higher cost of fire-resistant materials, and builders dread the required inspections.

But Friday Ivie, Gee, firefighter and city officials earned a grim reward. The fire did not ignite the hillside; it blistered but did not burn a nearby home, and no lives were lost.

The next few days will be tortuous for the owners of 711 and 713 Norfolk as they tally their losses. But for those fortunate enough, this time, to observe the fire from a distance, it is an important reminder to clear branches and debris from around your homes, check fire sprinklers and do any home repairs that might add, not only to the safety of your own property, but your neighbors’ as well.

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