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Getting a jump on the 2019 fire season

SANDY – There’s plenty of snow in the mountains and rain is in the forecast, but, forest officials say this is the time for them to prep for the state’s fire season.

Don’t let the amount of snow we have on the mountains fool you into a false sense of security.  Wet soil now doesn’t not necessarily mean wet soil later.

“We’ve had past years on the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache where we had a good snowpack and an active fire season, after,” says Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Supervisor Dave Whittekiend.

The ground soil was one of many topics discussed by U.S. Forestry officials during their meeting at their Sandy offices Tuesday.  They hope to get a jump on prep work this year in an attempt to avoid the massive problems the state had last year. Whittekiend says it’s hard to predict where the hot spots are going to be since humans cause the majority of forest fires.

He says, “Often times, the human caused fires that we have are from abandoned campfires or fireworks.  Sometimes, we get it from shooting.”

The Forest Service believes they’re in a good position to pounce on the blazes when they eventually do spark.

“We have a full component of firefighting resources.  We’ve got engines all across the forest.  We’ve got a couple of hand crews and helicopters are contracted,” Whittekiend says.

However, there are other measures crews can do now to ensure the flames don’t spread as quickly.  For instance, they’re clearing trees and improving fire breaks in roughly 11 thousand acres of forest land.

“In some areas, we’re go out with a Bull Hog (mulching machine) and actually grind those trees up,” he adds.

Whittekiend says when trees are turned into mulch, the wood decays faster and is a less viable fuel source.  Plus, fires can spread especially fast when the flames reach the tops of trees and jump to another tree.