|Fire is always a concern for communities near or in a forest.|
The Emery County Commission met in the November commission meeting to address the items on the agenda. Dave Viccars from the division of forestry, fire and state lands was on hand to discuss the Utah wildland urban interface code-HB-146.
Viccars said he was a representative of the counties when it comes to dealing with House Bill 146. "There has been an increase in wildfire activity in Utah in recent years. We will be going before the legislature next year for more money for firefighting costs. People are building homes in traditional wildfire areas."
Viccars explained that he retired as a fire chief after 28 years and also spent five years as the state fire marshall. The state is striving to make things workable for the counties as they identify areas where the new code will be applied. The original code was similar to California's and California issues are not applicable to Utah, so provisions and changes have been made to the code to adjust to Utah's needs. The counties were supposed to adopt the code by September of this year and 10 have done so with the others somewhere in the process.
Commissioner Gary Kofford said Emery County has been working with the fire chiefs in the county at the planning commission level and its plan should be in place in January or February.
Kofford said it was his understanding that the county's all volunteer fire departments didn't need to have the wildfire training and now he's hearing that they do need the wildfire training and he asked Viccars for clarification on that. Kofford pointed out it is very hard for the volunteers to attend training as they all have full time employment and aren't available during the daytime hours. Nights and weekends are the only time and it is asking a lot for these volunteers to do this. Kofford wondered if something could be done to facilitate training of the local firefighters. "If they need another 40 hours of training then they're probably not going to get it done," said Kofford.
Viccars replied only the red carded people engage in wildland firefighting. Other firefighters could engage in auxiliary functions like water shuttling. Viccars said they will deliver training to the local jurisdictions and the state will pay for the training. They also held over part of the fire wardens from the summer fire season and they will help with the training for locals.
Rudy Sandoval, the local representative, has scheduled training for next May for the firefighters in our area. It was pointed out that wildland firefighters are mostly young, hardy men. Viccars said firefighting has become more specialized. He recently helped with a wildland fire in Salt Lake County and the fire chief in charge said he was glad to have the wildland firemen take over because they are trained in structural fires only. So his team kept the homes safe and the wildfire team took care of the flames on the hillsides.
"This wildland fire code is something that should have been done years ago, but we are starting now to keep communities safe from fire," said Viccars.
Commissioner Ira Hatch said, "It is mandatory that we get a plan on line and we really appreciate Rudy's help with this. It's tough. We need to meld everything into the fire training, we just don't have the time. Over a period of time we can get everyone trained. We are commited to it," said Hatch.
Mike McCandless said the original code wouldn't work, but the revisions have helped a lot and the type I roofing will solve a lot of problems as well.
Kofford said the fire chiefs meet every second Monday of the month and two weeks ago a representative from the Fire Academy was there and he told a different story.
Viccars said, "We will provide the training that is needed and in May, Rudy will hold his training. He can meet with your fire chiefs and he will present that information in their fire chief meeting."