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Wildfire Town Hall Sparks Discussion On Management, Personal Responsibility

Aspen tree grove with wildfire of orange flames and dark smoke.
US Forest Service

In August 2013, the Millville Fire consumed over 3,000 acres of state, private and federal land in Cache County, Utah. It was the last big fire in the area, and foresters and legislators hope it stays that way.

Hosted by state senators and representatives, the wildfire town hall featured speakers from both state and federal forest agencies. They focused on collaboration with county and municipality governments, advocating for active management of lands.

“We have three larger prescribed fire units up Logan Canyon, this is aspen regeneration," said James Turner, the fire manager for the northern district of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. "So we are going in, targeting the conifer encroachment into aspen stands. All our projects go hand in hand with wildlife, watershed and wildfire reductions.”

More than 50% of Utah’s fires in 2018 were human caused, and those in attendance were very concerned about lowering that number. One person asked about shooting areas in the forest, as fires started by sparks from guns and bullets account for a significant portion. The legislators and speakers said restricting shooting ranges and certain weapons would be effective, but very unpopular.

“It comes down to politics, for a county or a municipality to propose something like that you would have lots more people coming out against it without the data," said Rep. Val Potter (R-UT 3rd District). "The elected officials are put in a position of ‘do we go against the majority of citizens for the good of the wildlife and the ground and so on and the potential of a burn, or do we support the people?’ and in the end, the people make a lot of noise.”

Some fires ignited from incidents as benign as horseshoes sparking against rocks, the speakers said. They encouraged safety and awareness with campfires as the wildfire season begins.