Salt Lake County Officials Gear Up For Another Wildfire Season, Urge People To Be Proactive
Most of Salt Lake County, and Utah for that matter, is in extreme or exceptional drought. Even though the state’s official fire season doesn’t start until June, fire authorities in the county are already gearing up for the 2021 wildfire season.
Besides dry conditions, canyons around the Salt Lake Valley are a wildfire danger because forests butt up against urban areas, according to Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Petersen.
“There's a risk living in this area,” Petersen told the Salt Lake County Council Tuesday. “There's really a risk everywhere we are right? Everywhere we live. The canyons offer that concern.”
There were several fires in canyons along the Wasatch Front in 2020, one of the most notable near Millcreek called Neffs Fire. It burned around 80 acres, forced trail closures and nearby residents were ordered to be prepared to evacuate. County council members said what happened in Utah and nearby states in recent fire seasons are a cautionary tale for the upcoming year.
Brad Larson is a fire marshal with UFA. He said communities should be proactive in preparing for fires. That includes having up-to-date building codes and creating a defensible space around homes.
Larson said places in Oregon have instituted fines and restrictions related to people’s homes, but he said having those in place could be difficult.
“Some of these are kind of hard because a man's home is his castle, especially in Utah,” Larson said. “You can keep your space nice and maintain that defensible space, but your neighbor may not. But if there was a way that that could be accomplished, I think that would be a big help.”
Fire season in Utah typically runs from June through October, but hot, dry conditions could cause it to start earlier.