Weed burn jumps canal banks, 50-acre blaze threatens homes
Fire fighters and engines from local, state and federal agencies battled a 50-acre wildfire for hours Tuesday afternoon, managing to protect about 10 homes that were directly threatened by the fast-moving blaze.
The fire broke out around noon on undeveloped wildland about three miles south of Price. Someone burning weeds in a canal lost control of the fire, which jumped the banks and was whipped by the wind into the tinder-dry grass, brush and deadfall. The most pressing concern was protecting the homes in the Circle K subdivision which was in the path of the flames.
Agencies responding to the emergency included Price and Helper City fire departments, Utah Forestry and Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Carbon County Sheriff's Department, Fire Warden and Emergency Director. The Moab Interagency Fire Center provided dispatch support.
In all, more than two dozen crew members were involved in the suppression effort, with more staff and vehicles on standby.
Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont estimated the total cost of putting out the fire at $9,000. "But the cost of fear to homeowners threatened by the fire is beyond price," he noted. Bedont added that the Sheriff's Department is investigating to see if formal charges will be filed against the person who started the fire.
At one point early in the battle, water for the fire trucks became a problem. A 3,000-gallon water tender was called in from Helper. Meanwhile, several homeowners in the subdivision were seen dousing their property with garden hoses.
Public safety officials restricted travel on the subdivision streets while the fire was burning. However, school buses with returning children were allowed to enter. They got personal escort service from law enforcement officers and fire fighters to make sure each student got home safely.
Chief Bedont said there have been several recent instances of people attempting to burn ditch banks and agricultural residue and the fires got out of control. Were it not for the quick response by local state and federal firefighters, these fires could have destroyed several homes. The cost for suppression of these fires has drained a substantial portion of local fire departments' wildland fire suppression funds.
"We are fortunate to have dedicated firefighters who are highly trained to suppress wildland fires. However, most of the local firefighters are volunteers. These recent "preventable" fires have cost them thousands of dollars in lost wages, not to mention lost time spent on their weekend off work days," the chief stated.
He offered the following advice:
There are laws regulating all aspects of burning in Utah and Carbon County. All residents of Carbon County are required to obtain daily a burn permit. During the open burn season, Nov.1 through May 31residents of the unincorporated areas of Carbon County can obtain a permit through the County Public Safety Dispatch Center (435) 637-0893. During the closed burn season June 1 thru Oct. 31 a written permit must be obtained through the County Fire Warden (435) 630-4338. Residents living within an incorporated city must contact their fire department for instructions on open burning dates and permit requirements.
State and federal environmental law allows open burning only when atmospheric conditions allow, air Clearing Index above 500. Our County Dispatcher has this information, which is updated daily. This information can also be obtained from the National Weather Service, a link to their website can be found at the Price City Fire Department's website at (http://www.priceutah.net.) Open burning is only allowed during daylight hours and the permit holder must be on site and monitoring the fire at all times until the fire is totally extinguished. Remember, you are responsible for any fires you start and could be held criminally and civilly liable for fire suppression costs and any damages which occur as a result of your burning.
For those wishing to burn garbage, old buildings, construction residue, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forbids the open burning of these items. Carbon County provides a "no fee" landfill for residents to dispose of those items
Bedont added these safety precautions:
1. Obtain Permit, "It's the Law" Carbon County County Ordinance 415.
2. Notify the County Dispatcher at (435) 637-0893 each morning before you burn and notify the County Dispatcher when you have completed your burning.
3. Clear the area of combustible materials from around your burn area. This will prevent the fire from spreading.
4. Try to keep brush piles small and limit the size of the fire to prevent its spread.
5. Never leave a fire unattended.
6. Have a way to extinguish the fire, shovels, fire extinguishers, hoses etc., should it become too large or begin to spread.
7. Closely monitor the wind conditions and extinguish the fire if burning embers begin to blow toward other combustibles. If wind speeds exceed 10 mph fires can and often do, spread too quickly to control. The wind generally picks up after 10 a.m.
8. Burn only weeds, tree limbs, branches, leaves, grass etc.
9. Have a way to quickly call for help should your fire get out of control.
10. Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave your burn area.