Forest Fire Near HomeHold tight—we’re in for nasty weather.  I don’t mean “nasty weather” in the sense that Winter intends to extend its icy fingers into June this year (although that is, admittedly, always a possibility in Utah).  No, this variety of “nasty” weather is great for barbecues, swimming, and fires.  While camping, cookouts, and other summertime rituals practically demand fires, watch out—you might get what you’re after.  Summer 2013 promises to be as big a threat to property and one’s epidermis as Summer 2012, during which 9.3 million acres were scorched and 4, 244 structures were reduced to kindling.

Summers in arid Utah are hot enough below 365 degrees; the polluted air, property damage, and burn injuries that accompany fires are superfluous to existing conditions.  All it takes is an ordinary guy burning down the house to set entire forests ablaze.  Luckily, there are already measures in place to combat these risks in the coming months:

1. Preparing Firefighters

In case anyone was thinking that firefighters only work for a few months out of the year, it’s time to put that rumor to rest.  All months may not be created equally fire-prone, but that doesn’t mean that vacation time extends through the snowy seasons.  Utah’s firefighters have been known to help with fires in other states, respond to emergency situations that do not pertain to fires at all (cats in trees come to mind), maintain equipment, stay fit enough to carry people of all sizes out of burning buildings, and carry out inspections.

Furthermore, the season starts earlier than many people realize:  In Sandy, firefighters have already been preparing for the summer fire season—since March, in fact.  When you take into account the time invested in promoting responsible development, fighting fires is an ongoing battle.

2. Positioning Firefighting Aircraft

Since the 2013 fire season promises to be on par with 2012, desperate measures have taken the form of private sector aerial firefighters.  Aerial firefighting is extremely taxing anywhere, as the vessels must necessarily be weighed down with fire retardant, the areas where they do their business are characterized by “hot windy conditions and crappy air,” and the target areas must be hit from long distances.  In Utah, where there are only 2 landing stations for tankers, low humidity, and high winds, conditions are even less forgiving.  Gratitude is owed to anyone undertaking such a task.

3. Setting Prescribed Burns

Prescribed burns are a method of fire prevention that involves fighting fire with fire.   Since fires are, in a sense, nature’s vacuum, they are almost inevitable.  When dried leaves, twigs, and other organic debris litter the ground of unincorporated, unmaintained areas, their flammable buildup facilitates their removal:   something catches fire, and all the lifeless material is removed to open access to air, sunlight, and other important resources for whatever sprouts  may have been trying to grow beneath all the dead matter.  This is natural and vital for the environment when it doesn’t end in the decimation of an enormous tract of land.  However, when humans and their flammable property enter the equation, letting nature take its course is a less than popular course of action.  Accordingly, to protect human communities, forestry services will nip debris removal in the bud by doing it themselves.  By clearing up the ground before the sweepings can accumulate into a heap of kindling, the magnitude of future fires can be controlled somewhat.

4. Placing Restrictions on Dangerous Activities

Utah’s Fire Prevention Order of March 8, 2013 bans the use of any and all fireworks in public lands under pain of a $1,000 fine and a bill for whatever fire suppression comes to. (“Public lands” vary from place to place; a precise list of local restrictions can be found here.)   This ban, a more preemptive echo of the statewide ban that was issued in June 2012, will remain in place until another order is issued.

After the coughing fits, eye irritation, and property damage that resulted from accidental fires getting out of hand in 2012, Utah is taking no chances.  However, community members individually may be another story.  If you or a loved one sustains a serious burn injury because the fireworks ban or other regulations are violated, but find yourself with no visible means of support, skilled burn injury attorneys like Christensen & Hymas can help you find the compensation you need.  For a free consultation, call (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy of Oregon State University