Summit County fire officials prepare for potential of active fire season
Summit County is potentially facing an extremely active fire season, with many comparing it to the 2012-2014 seasons when several devastating wildfire fires wreaked havoc on the region.
Earlier this month, the National Interagency Fire Center released the predictions for fire potential between May and August. Officials receive fire season predictions year round, but the outlook released on May 1 includes a four-month forecast of what moisture and drought trends are expected throughout the summer.
The fire season typically lasts from June through October in Summit County, with the fire potential peaking in August. Elevations below 7,500 feet are usually the most prone to wildfires.
State and county fire wardens convened last month to determine the level of services that will be available for the season, such as air craft. Local fire crews have also completed pre-season wildfire training.
Summit County Fire Warden Bryce Boyer said the outlook “isn’t looking too bad right now,” citing the moisture that has been brought in by recent storms. However, he said June and July are expected to usher in a warming trend that could exponentially increase the threat of wildfires.
“We’re going to be in the red in July and August,” Boyer said, indicating that the outlook shows an above normal potential.
Summit County experienced destructive fire seasons between 2012 and 2014, with thousands of acres burning and nearly a dozen homes lost in the eastern part of the county. A lightning strike was believed to have caused a devastating wildfire near the Rockport Reservoir in 2013 that charred more than 2,000 acres.
While the fire season was fairly normal last year due to the above normal snowpack, Boyer cited a lack of snow, below normal precipitation, above normal temperatures and a moderate drought that is expected to return to the area as factors that could increase the risk this year.
Above normal fire potential is expected across northern Nevada, southwestern Idaho, and northern Utah in July and August, according to the national wildland fire potential outlook. The report shows that a prolonged dry period has developed over the last several weeks to produce drought-like conditions across Utah. It states that there are strong indications that “above average warmth and dryness will continue into the early summer months for most areas.”
“One of the big things we are doing is working with the fire districts within the county to ensure their training and equipment is up and ready to go,” Boyer said. “We are just kind of in a holding pattern as far as the response side. We are doing outreach with the communities and are coming up with strategies to ensure the information is out there.”
Several agencies from multiple jurisdictions, including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Wasatch County, Duchesne County, U.S. Forest Service, State of Utah, Park City Fire District and Emergency Management and Wildland Fire, are expected to meet on June 4 to discuss evacuation plans for residents in case of a large fire.
Summit County is also planning to kick off an awareness campaign to disseminate information, statistics and reminders to the community as the potential wildfire threat increases over the next couple of months.
For more information about wildland fires, go to http://summitcounty.org/561/Fire-Warden.
Nearly a dozen Park City and Summit County officials sat on a public panel Wednesday to outline the way forward on wildfire management and to answer questions from residents.