Various efforts to prevent wildfires and minimize their damage, from policy measures to actions private property owners can take, will be discussed during a town hall meeting on Wednesday evening.
“We are coming off of last year which was one of the most expensive fire seasons in the state’s history,” said Rep. Casey Snider.
Snider, who represents Utah House District 5, will lead Wednesday’s discussion and provide information about the policy side of prevention and mitigation efforts. Individuals from the Cache County Fire District and the United States Forest Service will also be in attendance.
“We are all being good neighbors in this. We are all working together,” Snider said.
Beyond protecting life and property, Snider said fire prevention efforts are also important from a fiscal standpoint. According to Snider, each dollar toward fire mitigation saves $17 in the costs for extinguishing fires later on.
“If we are being good financial stewards of limited tax resources, it makes sense to put a little bit of money up front,” Snider said.
Wednesday’s town hall meeting will look at mitigation efforts county organizations take to reduce fire, such as reducing fuel and building fuel breaks, and efforts private property owners can take, such as clearing out brush and installing home sprinkler systems.
James Turner, the north zone fire management officer for the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said some of the current fire mitigation projects in the county have included removing juniper trees and prescribed burns for aspen regeneration.
Turner also said this summer is the third consecutive year that firewood permits have been made available again, which has helped reduce fuel in the past few years.
“A lot more dead and down fuel has been removed near the road,” Turner said.
As far as this year’s wildfire season, Snider said all the models he has seen forecast an average season. Turner said the wet spring will likely mean fire season starts later.
“It just kind of delays us a month or so before we get into our fire season,” Turner said.
Because this spring has been so wet, Snider said higher elevations should be at a lower fire risk. However, the fire concern for lower elevations may be greater.
“We have seen this in wet springs in the past,” Snider said. “We get a lot of grass out there and then it will dry out, as it will always do, and then it doesn’t take much to get a fire going in some of these places.”
Snider said one of the most important ways individuals can help prevent fires this year is by avoiding complacency.
“This year it could be easy to be complacent because the thought would be, ‘Well, we’ve had so much water there is nothing to worry about,’” Snider said. “In a lot of the places down here in the valley, the opposite may be true.”
The town hall meeting this week will be at 7 p.m. at the Cache County Historic Court House, 199 N. Main St.