Guest opinion: Our community escaped the Parleys Canyon Fire unscathed. Let’s be prepared for the next disaster.
Dear Summit County Council and county manager:
I want to thank Summit County for the response to the Parleys Canyon Fire a few weeks ago. The Sheriff’s Office, the Fire District, Search and Rescue, etc., all did a phenomenal job. With the fire still fresh in our minds, now would be a really good time to take stock of the circumstances, and come up with resolutions to help mitigate future fires and even eliminate such tragedies from taking hold. Here are two ideas to consider:
First, you should hold a public hearing at the library, or even better, at one of the schools close by such as the Weilenmann School of Discovery, Jeremy Ranch Elementary School or Ecker Hill Middle School to discuss the fire with residents. Invite folks of Pinebrook, Summit Park and Timberline to attend, along with officials from the Fire District, Search and Rescue and other entities that had a major role in managing the response to the fire. I attended such a meeting at our church recently, and it went over really well. It gave a couple fire officials and Search and Rescue (represented by Lance Livingston) the opportunity to explain the protocols employed in the evacuation, and it gave the attendees the opportunity to ask questions and give thanks to the responders for a job well done. There were also some good suggestions discussed for improving conditions that could lessen the chance of a fire spreading onto the brush adjacent to the freeway.
Second, if you haven’t already done so, you should form a task force to look for ways to eliminate or reduce the severity of fires stemming from the freeway or from lightning or other possible causes of forest fires close to where we live. Representatives from the HOAs, the Fire District, Search and Rescue, emergency preparedness, Basin Rec, Salt Lake Watershed Authority, and other stake holders (perhaps even UDOT) should be invited to participate. Some of the ideas that were brainstormed at our meeting Sunday include:
• Placing cameras along the freeway to catch the first glimpse of a fire and its source.
• Placing concrete barricades on the side of the freeway or rock rip rap for 20 to 30 feet back from the pavement to keep fires from spreading.
• Seeking grants from state and federal agencies to help water companies update their water delivery systems and enlarge water reservoirs.
• Providing incentives in the form of matching grants to HOAs to eliminate dead trees and undergrowth in the open spaces surrounding their neighborhoods.
• Encouraging Basin Rec to continue clearing out dead trees and underbrush in Toll Canyon and other forest properties it manages.
• Encouraging the use of goats to clear the underbrush. Basin Rec brought goats to Toll Canyon a few years back, and the difference it made was startling!
• Helping homeowners create a fire defense plan for their property and an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.
This was at least the second time residents of Summit Park have been ordered to evacuate. In my 16-year residency in Pinebrook, there have been at least three major fires originating from the freeway that threatened us. Major fires emanating from the freeway pose the greatest threat to our homes, our way of life and the forests we love.
We urge you to use your offices to create emergency preparations against forest fires in our community — especially those originating from the freeway.
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