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A USU panel event will explore the benefits and dangers of fire

SSgt Tim Chacon
digital flickr

USU is hosting a panel on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. for the “Facing Fire” exhibit that is taking place at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum through Dec. 16. Artists, policymakers and a firefighter will be featured panelists.

One of the featured panelists is Jamie Phillip Barnes, who is the director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Barnes has been director for two years. A day-to-day look at her work includes wildfire calls (especially during this time of year), assessing fire restrictions and attempting to mitigate the wildfire crisis.

The “Facing Fire” exhibit emphasizes how fire can be harmful and dangerous, yet beneficial and artistic.

Barnes has seen situations where fire has been beneficial for landscapes, but she has also been on the opposite end, where community members and firefighters need to get to safety due to a fire.

“It's difficult with the fires that we're seeing, because a lot of them become catastrophic very fast, and so that's something that we have to manage. And so it's done on a situation basis for where that fire occurs. But there's definitely ecosystem benefits that we should always be looking for when a fire starts,” Barnes said. “One is mitigating those hazardous fuels. And then the benefits to wildlife, the benefits to new growth in the forest, but then we also still have to be careful about what's nearby watersheds.”

Wade Snyder, deputy fire management officer, has been working in wildland fire since after high school and has been in Utah since 2007. He has held his current title since 2019.

Snyder is a former “Alta hotshot,” which is the highest status out of four different crew statuses in firefighting. “Alta hotshots” are highly mobile and specialized resources that are intended to deal with large wildland fires and support the management of fires.

He said that fire is a complicated thing, and during the panel, Snyder wants to address how a relationship with fire is always changing.

“Fire is basically what made us what we are at, you know, being able to cook, being able to harness the internal combustion engine,” Snyder said. “And that's what I think would be interesting to talk about, not that I'm the scientist or the expert on that, but I've just been living in this industry long enough to see those complexities and the social complexities that are created.”

A reception with live music will follow the panel at 7 p.m.

Hannah Castro is a junior at Utah State University studying Journalism and Public relations. Her parents were born and raised in Ecuador and migrated to the States before she was born. Hannah loves all things music and usually has a concert lined up. She enjoys being active, and recently ran her first half marathon in Salt Lake City. Hannah enjoys writing and can’t wait to further her skills at Utah Public Radio.