Mitt Romney visits Park City-area fire zone, praising the efforts to extinguish blaze | ParkRecord.com
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Mitt Romney visits Park City-area fire zone, praising the efforts to extinguish blaze

Senator stresses the importance of the availability of aircraft to assist in firefighting

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez explains the response to the Parleys Canyon Fire during a tour of the land on Friday with Park City Fire District Chief Bob Zanetti, Sen. Mitt Romney and Kelsey Berg, who is the senator’s deputy chief of staff. Romney afterward stressed the importance of the availability of firefighting resources in the event of a blaze like the recent one.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday toured the land where the Parleys Canyon Fire burned on the edge of Summit County earlier in August, describing afterward that the successes in the firefighting were a result of efforts that “all came together almost perfectly — the positive storm, if you will, instead of the negative storm.”

Romney in an interview with The Park Record credited the work that has been undertaken over time in preparation for a terrible blaze like the recent one. He said vegetation that posed a wildfire threat was addressed earlier and there were firefighting resources readily available.

“Where you had a reduction in fuel load that had been carried out by the community. You had aircraft nearby. You had landing fields nearby. You had reservoirs nearby. All those things contributed to being able to save these homes,” Romney said nearby the fire station at Summit Park.



Romney spoke to representatives of the Park City Fire District and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The two agencies played important roles in the response, which included the firefighting as well as the evacuation of Summit Park, Pinebrook and Timberline.

“It was really smart for people to evacuate when asked to do so, because that could have potentially saved structures, saved lives and saved firefighters from being in danger,” he said.



The senator stressed the availability of firefighting resources, particularly aircraft that dropped retardant on the blaze. The fire stretched across mountainous terrain and down to the edge of Interstate 80, making it more difficult to battle from the ground. He said the availability of firefighting aircraft shortly after the fire started was a key. He noted the involvement of aircraft from Hill Air Force Base and from Idaho.

“Within two hours when this fire started, there was federal aircraft with flame retardant that were able to come here and help douse this, the area of concern. That’s essential,” he said.

Romney said future planning for fighting wildfires should involve additional airplanes.

“One of the lessons here is, OK, we learned that more aircraft with flame retardant, able to be picked up on a timely basis, that makes a real difference. So, we’re probably going to need more aircraft. We’re going to need early-warning systems. We’re going to need much better coordination between state, local and federal resources,” he said.

The discussions should also address the location where firefighting aircraft are kept and whether certain places require more resources, he said.

“We’re probably going to need to station more places where aircraft are available, where they can come to fires as they break out so they don’t become massive conflagrations of such a scale that there’s no way for them to be managed,” he said.

Romney, meanwhile, spoke about the importance of addressing the amount of vegetation that can combust during a wildfire, known as the fuel.

“That’s one part of putting fires out. The other is to keep them from burning out of control and that means programs to reduce the fuel load. And we’ve really done a pretty poor job in thinking about how to do that,” he said.

The senator said the fire zone, which is highly visible off the interstate, will continue to be problematic even with the blaze extinguished.

“There’s a lot of damage, as you can imagine. And there’s going to be an impact on the watershed, and there’s going to have to be an effort to remediate the area to make sure that we don’t have additional destruction that’s just as a result of the water not being stopped by trees and other plants,” he said.

Romney predicted fires in the future will be a consequence of a warming planet.

“Given climate change, we’re going to see more wildfires and we’re going to have to do a better job of knocking them down before they take down more structures and cost human life,” he said.


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