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Commissioners look at fire situation in Scofield vicinity

Sun Advocate reporter

The Scofield fire that burned late this summer might be long out, but its legacy has endured.

Many actions and reactions have followed in the months since. One of the newest concerns involves fire prevention in the form of dead timber extraction.

The Utah State Division of Forestry is spearheading an effort to start harvesting timber on private land in the Clear Creek area. While none of the timber will be sold, it will be chipped and will therefore help decrease the fire hazard in the area.

The county commission endorsed the Clear Creek project on Oct. 7, in the form of waiving fees by 80 cents per ton. The project will cover a total of 215 acres with assistance of a helicopter.

Most of the project's funding comes in the form of a $300,000 stimulus grant intended to reduce hazardous fuels. Clear Creek was selected because of its surrounding tracts of beetle kill spruce.

While preventing wildfires is important, the county is also evaluating its readiness when it comes to fighting them. As such, the commissioners are considering purchasing personal protection equipment for firefighters at $949 a piece for about 30 people, as well as buying a new highly-mobile vehicle that will be better suited to negotiating difficult terrain.

"I want a truck for these areas. A first attack unit and I suggest we get something budgeted," said Commissioner Mike Milovich.

Such a truck could be used for multiple undertakings across the county. Commissioners are awaiting more specifications on the vehicle before it will receive final approval.

The commission also considered a potential safety problem addressed by the Desert Wings R/C Flying Club. The club is concerned that the county flying field poses a potential threat to the new senior citizens' center because non-members utilizing the field might not be trained on how to property handle model aircraft.

It was proposed that the county lock the facility and post signs with contact numbers for those who want to fly. However, because the field is county-owned and maintained, commissioners were hesitant to simply lock the gates.

"I'm opposed to locking it up," said Commissioner John Jones. "We lock the gate, (hypothetically) I'm going to take my plane and go over to the senior citizens center's parking lot and fly over there."

Complications arose when it became known that the club is part of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) which, along with the county, insures the facility. This $60 per year liability insurance covers not only the grounds, but also members and those who fly with members, but not third parties. As such, the issue will need to be studied more closely, along with previous meeting's minutes.

"It would pay to do back and take a look (at insurance issues). It's probably double covered," said Commissioner Bill Krompel.

The runway itself was also discussed, primarily relating to its expansion towards the west. It was unclear what modifications should be undertaken, because the prevailing wind is from the east.

"I think it would be in our best interest to modify the field," said Milovich.

While Milovich supported the air field modification, he was not in favor of paying $2,100 for out-of-area advertising for the Notre Dame Oktoberfest. Both the restaurant and tourism board recommended this fee, but did so, "at the last minute," according to Milovich.

Part of the problem was a lack of clear criteria for such events, because the county has turned down similar events in the past, such as the Greek Orthodox Church's annual Greek Festival.

Kathy Smith, who represented the tourism board, argued that the Greek festival was turned down many years ago and that funding practices have changed.

"That was so many years ago. We fund so many different things now," she said.

Better criteria will likely be established for future funding of annual projects. But, overall, the commission decided to fund new Nine Mile Canyon signs up to $22,000, Castle Country Magazine and Castle Country Clash at $500. Other funding included $13,000 for the county lobbyist.

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