Utah Forest Fires
By Dallin Blackhurst
There have been many fires throughout Utah’s history due to its extremely dry climate, causing everything to catch flame very easily. At this moment, there are forest fires that firefighters are working through. One example of a dangerous fire being taken care by these heroic men and women is on Bald Mountain.
The Bald Mountain fire is on the south side of Utah Lake, just a mile away from Payson, Utah. Being 16,554 acres in size, only 12% is actually contained. The trees on the mountain were all so dry, it only took a lighting strike for it to catch flame. Currently, there are over 650 men and women that are working hard to stop the fire. And recently it has combined with the Pole Creek forest fire to form one giant fire making it 86,000 acres long. These fires are the number one priority fires in the nation right now. This is huge!
There are men and women working in the fires that not very many people see in a fire truck with water. This group of firefighters is called the Hotshots. They mostly let the fire fight itself. The process through which this happens begins with the firefighters digging trenches around the fire. That way, when the fire reaches those trenches, it doesn’t go beyond them. This, in turn, keeps it contained. Sooner or later the forest fire will act like any other campfire and burn all of the wood that it can until it burns out. There is an example of this happening in Lambert Park, Alpine. Only this time, the trench wasn’t dug up by Hotshots. It was dug by mountain biking adrenaline junkies that felt like there should more trails in Alpine. There was a fire that started over there by kid being safe, but not in the right place. He fired a bullet that sparked off a rock and started a big fire. The mountain biking trail, corkscrew, in upper Lambert, contained the fire until it went out. As you are going on the trail, you can see that one side of the trail is all fried up and the other side is as green as can be. The trail stopped the fire. These Hotshots do that exact same thing. They dig a trench that is maybe 2 feet wide and 10 inches deep. It will most likely stop the fire. Although some fires are so fierce that they will jump highways. There was a fire in Utah once that jumped SR-92. Let's hope this fire doesn’t do that.
There are also other kinds of firefighters involved in these forest fires too, though. Have you been seeing more airplanes than you usually would? These are aerial firefighters. They use planes and helicopters to drop extinguishers on and around the fire. They usually drop red fire retardant, a powder that won’t let things around the fire catch flame. They also drop many gallons of water on the fire. They go to a water source with a vast bag tethered to the aircraft and then they drop the water that was in the bag on to the fire. But they don’t just drop fire retardant and water on those fires. They also drop people. These people are called Smokejumpers. They jump from airplanes into the fire. They drop with much food and water because they are supposed to live in the fires for at least 72 hours trying to put out the fire. They do the same thing that a Hotshot does, but these men and women go to where Hotshots cannot go.