Record editorial: Don’t be fooled by optimistic wildfire outlook. The threat still exists.
The early outlook couldn’t be much better for Summit County as wildfire season begins.
An extremely wet spring has kept vegetation moist, and Bryce Boyer, the county fire warden, predicts the danger throughout the summer will be average to below average.
That’s welcome news after last year, when a dry winter had emergency officials on edge even in the spring. The concern was justified as the 2018 wildfire season in Utah proved to be one of the most destructive on record. Summit County was fortunate to come out relatively unscathed, with a 300-acre blaze in Tollgate Canyon that briefly threatened a few homes but did not destroy any being the most serious incident.
At this point, residents can take heart in the fact a sequel to last summer does not appear imminent. But they shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking the threat has disappeared.
As emergency personnel are quick to point out, even a below average wildfire year poses significant risk. There are still likely to be periods of extreme danger, in fact, depending on the conditions. And when the dog days of summer arrive, the outlook can change in a hurry.
In Summit County, the stakes are high. All it takes is one blaze to get out of control in the wrong location — Old Town, Deer Valley and Summit Park, for example — for catastrophe to strike.
That’s not to say residents shouldn’t enjoy the summertime traditions of shooting off dazzling Fourth of July fireworks (assuming no restrictions are in place) and roasting marshmallows and hot dogs around an evening campfire.
Just do it safely.
Along with enjoying those fruits of a wet spring, there’s something else residents can do this summer: Officials say the favorable fire outlook makes it a perfect time to plan for when the situation isn’t so rosy. Residents should carve out time amid the summer fun to protect their homes by creating defensible spaces. That involves steps like trimming branches that are close to structures, ensuring dry grasses and weeds are mowed short and removing dead vegetation.
Heed the warnings and take the opportunity to act now because, when a wildfire happens, it’s too late. In Summit County, that’s a matter of when, not if — even in a summer with favorable conditions.
Summit County provides information about wildfires and how residents can protect their homes at co.summit.ut.us/561/Fire-Warden.
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Our view: Pushing to protect watersheds in the Uinta Mountains would cost Summit County time and resources. But it can’t afford to do nothing.