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All hands on deck for Utah firefighters as fire season heats up

Jul 10, 2023, 5:49 PM | Updated: 6:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah firefighters are on high alert as temperatures rise, winds pick up and grasses begin to dry out.

Battalion Chief Bob Silverthorne with Salt Lake City Fire Department said those kinds of conditions caused several fire crews to respond to a small grass fire at California Avenue and Bangerter Highway in Salt Lake on Monday morning.

“It gives us some potential for some pretty fast-running fires if we don’t get a stop on it,” he said to KSL TV. “A lot of people don’t really consider we are in a fire season right now, but our fire season is well on its way. We are heavily in fire season.”

Salt Lake Fire crews extinguishing a brush fire. (KSL TV)

That’s exactly why two crews of wildland firefighters with Unified Fire Authority are spending the week up Emigration Canyon.

All are part of fire preparation. They are clearing out the dead and dry debris that has built up around homes.

“There is a lot more growth than previous years. That’s something that is a lot more problematic to us, something we are paying attention to,” said Ryan Love with UFA. “We are looking at 90-degree temperatures today and throughout the rest of the week. It’s also a bit windy up here. The combination of that is not great for fire behavior.”

Unified Fire crews clearing out dead and dry debris in Emigration Canyon. (KSL TV)

At fire station #4 in the upper avenues in Salt Lake City, firefighters are also on heightened alert, because of all the dry grasses that are beginning to appear around homes on the hillside.

“Every single day, we are in a posture of readiness anticipating a fire,” said Capt. Scott Winkler with SLC Fire. “Now that the floods are gone, we are left with heavy fuels. We live in a desert, so conditions will turn towards those red flag conditions. We will be in a fire pattern for the next two to three months.

Two Utah wildland firefighters hospitalized for heat illnesses

Winkler said that’s why they offer homeowners the chance to set up an appointment and have firefighters come by their home and look over their defensible space. Homeowners can do that by going to the city website.

Firefighters said it would take everyone working together to make it through this fire season.

“We need a combined frontal assault on the fire problem. That comes from the fire department. That comes from our communities, our neighbors, our partners,” Silverthorne said.

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All hands on deck for Utah firefighters as fire season heats up