wildfires | KUER 90.1

wildfires

Photo of desert with a State Trust Land sign.
Headwaters Economics

A new white paper from the non-profit Headwaters Economics says transferring public lands from the federal government to Western states would generate more revenue, but also comes with high economic costs.

A riparian area along the Virgin River.
Elaine Clark / KUER

 

Editor’s Note: During impeachment inquiry hearings, KUER is offering news roundups from around the state and audio of those stories as a resource for our audience.

Wildland firefighters use fire retardant — the red stuff that air tankers drop — to suppress existing blazes. But Stanford researchers have developed a gel-like fluid they say makes fire retardant last longer and could prevent wildfires from igniting in the first place if applied to ignition-prone areas.

Our region is leading the way on training helicopter pilots to fight fires at night.  There are costs and hazards involved but the move could also help firefighters get the most threatening blazes under control more quickly.

From more intense wildfires to prolonged droughts, climate change is impacting the ecology of the American West. That’s got researchers in our region looking at a new way to fight some of these impacts: drones.

A recent study says the American West should be doing more prescribed burns to keep forests healthy and to help lessen the impacts of wildfires across our region. It also concluded that there needs to be a change in how we perceive the practice out here for that to happen.

Photo of Peavin Canyon Fire.
Courtesy U.S. Forest Service

The word wildfire tends to invoke fear, but some wildfires are actually good. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Peavine and Poison Canyon fires currently burning in the Manti-La Sal National Forest will help the environment and act as future fire suppressants.

It’s no secret that wildfires are getting worse in the West. They’re threatening lives, homes and ecosystems. And they are also threatening our already-precarious watersheds. It’s all becoming a vicious cycle  — especially for the drier parts of our region. 

Several utility companies in the West have announced they will institute power blackouts in areas with high fire risk when conditions are particularly bad. 

Photo of west valley fire.
Utah Fire Info Twitter

In Utah, it is unlawful to discharge fireworks — except in certain places and in certain time frames. Those include the four-day windows surrounding the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day, which start two days before and end one day after the holidays.

There’s a lot about the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires that was unexpected, defying decades of know-how that fire officials brought to the challenge of fighting them.

Photo of signing.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

Utah will have more say in managing some of its federally-owned public lands, after Gov. Gary Herbert and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a “shared stewardship” agreement on Wednesday.

Wildfire season is around the corner in the Mountain West. Prescribed burns are just one way to reduce wildfire risk. That's because, in the right setting, they reduce built-up dry fuel in a controlled environment.

Rick Egan, Salt Lake Tribune

Yellowstone National Park may lose many of its forests by mid-century due to severe wildfires and climate change, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Monographs.  

Winter is when the federal government starts spending dollars to prepare for the wildfire season, but the ongoing shutdown has put some of this preparation in limbo.

Year-end picture
Renee Bright / KUER

It was a year of big — big fires, big ballot initiatives and big political upsets — that collectively defined Utah in 2018 as the state continued its growth spurt. The Beehive State added another 50,000 people this year, owing both to the state’s healthy economy and low unemployment. But Utah also weathered more troublesome headlines, whether through the rushed creation of a controversial Inland Port in northwest Salt Lake City or the publication of sexual abuse allegations implicating leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church.

KUER reporters picked out some of the top stories of this year and explain why they mattered.

The words “record-breaking” and “unprecedented” are commonly used to describe the scale of the modern-day west’s wildfires. But a new study suggests those terms leave out some important historical context.

Fall might be in the air, but wildfires continue to burn across the country. One of the largest is in Wyoming and has reached over 60,000 acres.

Incident Information System

Updated 11:05 a.m. 9/26/18

The National Interagency Fire Center continues to track seven fires in Utah, totaling 136,802 acres or nearly 214 square miles. More than 17,000 personnel are battling the flames statewide.

The sun is just a dim red dot. The nearby Canadian Rockies are shrouded in thick wildfire smoke.

Bob Gray knows we probably shouldn’t be hiking up a mountain right now.

“I have a scratchy throat,” he says. “Physically it effects my breathing. I probably shouldn’t spend a lot of time in it.”

It may be autumn in a couple of days but wildfire season isn't slowing down. People living in parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah remain evacuated from their homes because of nearby wildfires. And the flames are fueling another thing-private firefighting companies.

Mitt Romney looks at wildfire maps.
@Romney4Utah Twitter

Elected officials and wildfire experts will meet Thursday afternoon in Salt Lake City to discuss how to prevent catastrophic wildfires from springing up in Utah and across the west.

Western firefighters were working the biggest wildfire in California’s history when they encountered a surprising obstacle: slow internet.

With wildfires burning through much of the West, there’s high demand for big aircraft to come in and battle the flames from above.

Over the last 30 years, the West has seen an uptick in the size and frequency of forest fires. Scientists have typically attributed the change to low snowpack and high summer temperatures. But researchers writing in the journal PNAS say the trend could have more to do with rain.

Researchers pulled up maps of forest wildfires from 1979 to 2016 and compared those maps against data on snow, rain, temperature and humidity.

Smith at podium with flowers.
Screenshot: City of Draper Live Feed

Thousands gathered Monday in West Valley to remember Draper firefighter Matthew Burchett, who died last week while battling the massive Mendocino Complex Fire in California. He was 42.

With its breathtaking views, the Mountain West has long been a destination for weddings. But now, some wedding industry workers are seeing fewer couples wanting to get hitched in late summer months because of an increasingly smoky backdrop.

A new study shows air pollution like soot, dust and smoke is down around the country with one exception: wildfire prone areas like the Mountain West.  

Here's a telling statistic: Seven of the most destructive wildfires in California history have occurred just in the past 13 months.

The Camp Fire in Butte County is at the top of the list as the most deadly and destructive with at least 79 deaths, over 15,000 structures and 151, 000 acres burned and the fire still not fully contained.

Utah Fire Info / Twitter

Update 8/8/18 3 p.m.

The National Interagency Fire Center is keeping tabs on seven wildfires in Utah, including the Hilltop Fire in drought-stricken Sanpete County. Officials say the fire is 12 percent contained, and flames have burned nearly 3 square miles so far. Nearly 170 personnel are working the Hill Top Fire. That’s about twice as many as Tuesday.

A fast-burning fire in central Utah has scorched 1.5 square miles and threatened 500 people in communities around Sanpete County.

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