Wildfire warning: Living close to the forest carries extra responsibilities
Thursday evening, more than 50 concerned property owners from Weber Canyon and Oakley turned out for a meeting with U.S. Forest Service and Unified Fire Authority officials. The horizon to the east of the town hall was muted by smoke from nearby wildfires but the message was clear. While firefighters currently have the upper hand on the nearby Box Canyon Fire, homeowners must remain vigilant.
A representative from one of the many homeowner associations in the densely wooded canyons along the edge of the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest asked, “What do we tell our cabin owners?” The unequivocal response: Be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
According to Unified Fire Authority Captain Riley Pilgrim, those who live in developments along the wildland interface must shoulder some responsibility for their own safety. That includes clearing a defensible space of at least 30 feet around all structures, having a clear evacuation plan and paying close attention to weather patterns including prevailing winds and lightning. He said it is also helpful if property owners help local fire districts keep an accurate inventory of all dwellings, including their GPS coordinates.
“We don’t like people to wait for us,” he said. “Fires can travel quickly and it can be difficult to notify every property owner. If you feel uncomfortable be prepared to evacuate any time day or night.”
Summit County’s Fire Warden Bryce Boyer also asked those in attendance to ensure firefighters don’t have to contend with locked gates or other obstacles. He suggested making keys available to local firefighters or leaving gates unlocked when there is an active fire in the area.
In Summit County, that advice applies to outlying subdivisions and summer cabin areas from Summit Park on the West Side to Samak on the East Side. Many residents in those areas have already taken proactive steps to minimize the potential impacts of a wildfire. Fire officials on Thursday suggested that property owners review the fire prevention tips on websites like firewise.org and Ready Set Go: http://gacc.nifc.gov/gbcc/dispatch/ut-cdc/prevention/doc/ready_set_go.pdf
As of Friday, the Box Canyon Fire had grown to 2,300 acres but firefighters were confident in their containment plan and it was the only wildfire burning in the county. However, conditions throughout northern Utah are extremely dry and summer is far from over. Whether you own property adjacent to a wooded area, or just plan to go for a hike in the forest, check on current fire and weather conditions. Our firefighters are doing a great job — let’s do ours.
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