County works on Fire Plan
|Fire in Huntington in 2004 where wildland and urban meet. |
A committe has been assembled to write a firefighting plan for Emery County. "To identify our concerns and construct a plan that would incorporate those concerns, the available firefighting equipment and all agencies to be involved, is our purpose," Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford stated. This committee was organized to address the wildland/urban interface areas in Emery County and its drainages, and to develop a plan to fight fires in those areas.
At the second meeting of this committee, the agencies represented were: Emery County Sheriff's Office, public lands, forest service, state lands, Emery County road department, Emery County Fire District, The Bureau of Land Management, and other Emery County officials.
The state has developed a statewide plan to look at fire suppression situations in watershed areas, and urban developments that are moving into wildland areas. In conjunction with the Healthy Forest Initiative, Emery County is investigating the possibility of adopting a plan to specifically address the needs of Emery County and it's drainages.
Because Emery County's drainage goes west to Skyline Drive, Lenard Stull was present to represent Sanpete County. He stated that Utah State's plan is very comprehensive and will serve as a good model for Emery County to follow in the adoption of its own plan. A copy of the draft document can be found on-line at www.ffsl.utah.gov, click on fire management, then wildland urban interface, then WUI-minimum state development standards draft.
"It's a good standard," said Kofford. It covers roads, addressing, new construction, remodels, fire control, and access to wildlands, along with many other parts of the process. The committee was asked to review this standard and return to the next meeting with ideas and improvements that can be made to the draft of Emery County's plan.
Mike McCandless has been reviewing other communities plans on the internet. "There are many good resources on the web. We can incorporate numerous concepts into our plan," said McCandless. "We need to focus on our watershed."
Stull added, "The document should be small enough for people to read in its entirety. Many people will only read the parts that concern their personal situation. This will be important enough for everyone to read fully and understand the entire plan."
Mick Robinson of the Emery County IT department said that he is in the process of broadening the maps to include the areas west of the county line to Skyline Drive. He requested specific information concerning what should be pinpointed on the maps. Suggestions that were given were: structures, including isolated cabins, water sources, storage tank sites, roads, and bridges, with load capacities, and location of any utilities.
Another item of concern was private property. The legalities of crossing private property for acquiring GPS coordinates, and also fighting fires was discussed. Local law enforcement or the State of Utah has the right to enter private property. The matter of defensible perimeters around private property was noted. Along with the plan, a strategy of educating property owners in the wildland portions of the county is needed. Property owners need to be made aware of everything that can be done on their part to reduce the possibility of a fire.
Brandon Hoffman of the forest service said that all reported fires in this area of Utah are dispatched out of Moab. They recently renovated the system for smoother, more uniform handling of calls. Emergency services have been notified that all wildland fire calls are to be routed through the Moab office. This should reduce confusion and response time.
Morris Sorensen of the county road department submitted a list of all county owned equipment that would be available for fighting wildland fires. He added that a very detailed map of the county road system is available to all concerned agencies.
Garth Childs, county fire marshal, said that a wildland fire training course would begin in Emery County in April. He also submitted a list of district owned firefighting equipment. A list of medical facilities and number of ambulances is recommended. Childs also requested an updated list of locations that can be utilized to fill tanker trucks.
Hoffman said the forest service has a five year management plan in place for the forest service land, and fuels reduction plays a big part in the plan. He encouraged the committee members to read the plan and feel free to adopt it in its entirety or adapt any part.
The forest service is aggressively working to reduce the fuel load in the forest, and many projects have already been undertaken for this season. Their goal is to protect the watershed from severe fire, and reduce sediment problems following a fire.
Commissioner Kofford instructed the committee members to submit their findings to Ray Petersen as soon as possible. Petersen will compile the findings and suggestions.