Summit County’s open burn ban reduces fireworks-related calls | ParkRecord.com

Summit County’s open burn ban reduces fireworks-related calls

Strong winds pushed smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire into Summit County on Thursday. The fire has scorched nearly 48,000 acres in Wasatch and Duchesne counties.

Firefighters with the Park City Fire District had a relatively quiet Fourth of July. Crews did not respond to any reports of fires caused by fireworks or related incidents, even though Summit County's open burning and personal fireworks ban was issued only a day before the holiday.

Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt said the professional fireworks shows went as planned and no major incidents were reported. He commended the public for adhering to the fire restrictions.

"There was nothing that I could think of or that I heard of us responding to," he said Friday morning. "We have to give credit to Parkites and those within the fire district."

The Utah state forester issued an order banning all open burns throughout unincorporated areas of Summit County Tuesday morning. A fire outlook report released on Monday prompted the state forester's decision. The report indicated that fuels have dried out considerably and that most levels were in the upper to moderate range for fire danger.

The state forester's decision was also heavily based on the number of wildfires burning throughout the state. The fires, including the Dollar Ridge Fire in Wasatch County, deplete the state's resources and reduce the ability to respond to other blazes.

The human-caused Dollar Ridge Fire had scorched nearly 48,000 acres in Wasatch and Duchesne counties. It started July 1 on private property in Wasatch County and quickly spread to Duchesne County, prompting the evacuation of 200-300 homes.

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The Wasatch County Sheriff's Office closed U.S. 40 from mile marker 44 near Strawberry Reservoir to mile marker 80 near Freedom Bridge Wednesday evening, according to a press release from Utah Wildfire Information. The fire was 4 percent contained as of Friday morning.

Heavy winds pushed smoke from the fire into Summit County on Thursday, leaving a visible haze across the mountains and the smell of burning wood in the air. Hewitt said dispatch received several calls from people concerned the fire had spread into the county.

"That fire is about 40 miles away from us and there is very little chance that fire could go that distance," he said. "I would put our Park City Fire District residents at ease and let them know that fire isn't going to make it up here."

Hewitt said the area was expected to receive some moisture over the weekend. But, he added, "We are entering another phase of the wildland season."

The haze in the air prompted Summit County to issue a warning about the reduced air quality over the next several days. Phil Bondurant, Summit County Health Department's environmental health director, said the air quality fluctuated throughout the day on Thursday as the winds shifted, pushing the smoke into the area.

"You don't need air monitors to understand the quality of the air when you can see the haze from the fire," he said. "As long as they are fighting that fire, we will likely see this."

Bondurant compared the haze to the smoke that is given off by a campfire or a chimney, adding that it is consistent with the byproduct of burning fuels. He encouraged people who experience breathing challenges or shortness of breath to be extra cautious.

"They will be the first to feel these impacts," he said. "Particulate matters and smoke will amplify those conditions. We are also warning sports coaches and parents to watch out for their children. Pay attention if they are out and start to feel lethargic or experience headaches. Limit their activities and exposure. We all need to listen to our bodies and stay inside as much as possible."

For more information about the county's air quality, go to the Summit County Health Department website, summitcountyhealth.org, and type 'air quality' into the toolbar.