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Front Page » June 3, 2003 » Local News » Fire demonstrates risks associated with drought
Published 4,475 days ago

Fire demonstrates risks associated with drought

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Staff reporter

Scorched grass covers the ground at Terrace Hills following last Wednesday's fire at the Price city park. The blaze demonstrates how the drought and lack of water in the Carbon County area could have disastrous impacts.

A fire in the Terrace Hills park last Wednesday demonstrates how the lack of water in the Carbon County area could have disastrous impacts, even within the city limits.

Late in the afternoon on May 28, the Carbon County dispatch received a call from a citizen who reported that the grass at the park east of the Price City Cemetery was on fire.

Suda Merriman, Price city parks and grounds supervisor, heard about the call and rushed to the scene. Merriman discovered that the grass in the park was on fire.

"Suda, luckily, had the presence of mind to turn on the sprinkling system, And by the time the fire department arrived, the fire was almost out," noted Price public works manager Gary Sonntag during an interview on Thursday.

Merriman's rapid response to the situation may have prevented a larger fire from happening.

It appears the fire started near the parking lot separating the two sections of lawn at the park. The source was suspected to be a tossed cigarette, but officials have not determined the exact cause.

Once the fire started, a wind from the east pushed it westward toward the cemetery, where trees near the fence line and storage shed are located.

"With everything so dry, if the fire had reached that area, we could have had some real damage," indicated Sonntag.

Normally, city park lawns are kept green and, particularly this early in the summer season, the grass has few brown spots. But because of the restriction the city has placed on all outside watering, most of the parks have not received moisture.

The brown, dry lawns at all parks in the area are a potential fire danger and local residents are urged to exercise caution.

While last week's fire only burned grass, it proved how dangerous a blaze in a city facility could be, particularly in one of the older sites like Pioneer Park in Price.

"This fire at Terrace Hills made us think," commented Sonntag. "Pioneer is just as dry, but it also has those big pine trees and that wooden cabin in the middle of it. If a fire started there it could be a real disaster."

Sonntag explained that ground crews had gone to Pioneer Park and started the sprinkling system to soak the grass to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

The problem in Carbon County, particularly in Price city, hasn't been limited to the ongoing drought conditions, however. A number of factors have added to the concerns.

The factors include the unusually hot weather the area has experienced in the last week and the fact that the mayor had asked no parks be watered until the new delivery system serving the community from the treatment plant in Price Canyon goes on line.

"The system is all set up and connected now and we are getting the bacteriological tests back this afternoon," pointed out Sonntag. "If things go well, we should be able to start delivering water from the new system to the tanks in the next few days."

During the peak use time, water is taken from the Price River for the treatment plant. The rest of the year, the water for the city comes primarily from springs near Fish Creek, not in Spring Canyon that leads to Scofield as reported in the Sun Advocate on May 29.

"Despite the fact that the delivery system will be up and running, that doesn't mean people should start using a lot more water however," cautioned Sonntag. "We are still in a drought, and we have to conserve. Supplies are very low and everyone should realize that the watering schedules are still important."

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